Race/Bias/Cultural Competence – Holloran Center Professional Identity Implementation Blog
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Race/Bias/Cultural Competence

David Grenardo

What About Us? How Law Schools Can Help Historically Underrepresented Law Students Develop Their Professional Identities

In a forthcoming article for Mercer Law Review, Holloran Center Associate Director David Grenardo presents a critically important perspective on the ways that historically underrepresented students face obstacles to their professional identity formation. Grenardo provides context around why these issues can seem insurmountable to staff and faculty, and explains why it is crucial to tackle them head-on: structural biases in law school stall the academic and professional development of historically underrepresented students. He closes with practical, solution-oriented suggestions around mentorship, academic support, and experiential learning that would create an environment in which all students are welcome.

The article abstract follows. You can also read a draft of the entire article on SSRN.

The revised ABA Standards require law schools to provide substantial opportunities for law students to develop their professional identity. An individual’s professional identity as a lawyer consists of one’s personal identities integrated into who they are as a professional. Gaining a professional identity means going from an outsider to an insider in that profession, and a law student’s professional identity formation refers to the process of evolving from law student to lawyer. Law schools must dive into the murky waters of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation because that is where our historically underrepresented law students are, trying to become professionals in a system that sees them as the other, different, and outsiders.

Part I of the Article briefly defines professional identity. Part II sets forth an overview of the many obstacles historically underrepresented law students face—including, but not limited to, the historical exclusion of underrepresented individuals from law school and the legal profession, imposter syndrome, bias, microaggressions, wealth and education disparities—in developing their professional identity. Part III provides a summary of tangible solutions that law schools may employ to address those obstacles and help those law students develop their professional identity. This Article concludes that it is critical for law schools to intervene to ensure historically underrepresented law students can properly develop their professional identity.

Please reach out to David Grenardo at gren2380@stthomas.edu with any questions or comments.

David Grenardo is a Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.


Debra Moss Vollweiler

No Difficulty Holding Both Logic and Feeling: Can the Barbie Movie Help with Women’s Professional Identity Education?

By: Debra Moss Vollweiler, Professor of Law, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law [1]

Hi Barbie! In the wake of the blockbuster Barbie movie in the Summer of 2023, women are embracing—or reembracing—women’s empowerment, including what many are calling a newfound freedom to express femininity. Like many across the country, I headed back to the movie theater in the summer of 2023 to see if the Barbie movie was as fun and meaningful as I’d heard. I didn’t expect it to change the way I think and teach professional identity in law school.

Thanks to ABA Standard 303(b) all law schools should be focusing on the development of professional identity for their students.[2] According to the Holloran Center, professional identity education “should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice.[3]

Part of this exploration for students is helping them develop an accurate self-understanding of who they are and how their values guide them. But the exploration of professional identity for women has sometimes hit a speedbump. For many women law students, their system of values and principles that are connected to their gender and self-expression of that gender historically have been downplayed. In other words, even though professional identity education should be enabling students to fully examine who they are, what they value, and how that shapes their identity, some students are seeing that many women in the legal profession have had to keep key parts of their identity—as women—tamped down to fit into their professional environments. Such dissonance can be harmful to the professional identity development of women.

There are many obstacles to women discussing their gender as part of their professional identity. Some of these deterrents include:

  • Imposter syndrome by women lawyers, stemming from male-dominated work environments;
  • A lack of diversity (including gender) in leadership roles within the legal profession;
  • Women in leadership criticizing other women; and
  • Lack of systematic support for woman and their choices.

I wasn’t expecting a movie to help me teach women law students how to move past these obstacles, but it did.

What is the Legal Profession Modeling for Women?

In late 2022, a female lawyer in Ohio received a text (which has since gone viral) from a male attorney at her law firm.[4] She’d returned from maternity leave a few days earlier—a leave during which she was asked and expected to perform legal work. Shortly after her leave, she notified a partner that she was resigning and going to another firm. The text said: “What you did – collecting salary from the firm while sitting on your ass, except to find time to interview for another job – says everything one needs to know about your character. Karma’s a bitch. Rest assured, regarding anyone who inquires, they will hear the truth from me about what a soul-less and morally bankrupt person you are.”

While ultimately that male attorney was fired, it pulls back the curtain on attitudes some women in the legal profession face about their commitment to work as women. Not all women are mothers, but the same level of scrutiny is also focused by some on how all women are expected to speak, dress, and present themselves in the profession. Just recently, even as a 25+ year member of the academy, I recently faced a curious comment about my choice of jacket worn during an academic presentation. It wasn’t quite a compliment or a criticism, but I am certain none of the other presenters (all male) received any wardrobe feedback at all. It made me conscious of being a woman in a field where I have no doubts of my accomplishments nor of my professional identity. I couldn’t help but wonder what impact such a comment would have on a female student or new lawyer still developing hers.

There is no question that women in the profession are definitely struggling with their professional identity and that the struggle is impacting them and the profession.

The 2022 Survey of Women Leaving the Law presented a multitude of statistics on why women left top 200 law firms. The report largely debunked COVID and other family-first excuses that firms have been making to explain away the number of women failing to make equity partner status, or to stay in their employment. Instead, the focus was clearly on the difficulty women still have merely being women in the profession. Based on their interviews, the report suggested that to increase gender diversity retention in the profession, the profession needed to solve basic problems, such as ensuring that firms are giving women opportunities and amplifying their voices, providing women with a seat at the decision-making table and having a zero-tolerance policy for sexism. At the ABA National Summit on Achieving Long-Term Careers for Women in Law, Iris Bohnet, professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, indicated some women leave because of a work culture that forces them to minimize important parts of their lives.[5] She noted that women who leave often ask themselves, “Can I bring my whole self to work?”

On top of that, Forbes reports on the large scope of the problem for women in the legal profession. “It’s not just less pay and fewer promotions. According to a recent survey… female lawyers, and especially women of color, are more likely than their male counterparts to be interrupted, to be mistaken for non-lawyers, to do more office housework, and to have less access to prime job assignments.”[6]

Women law students who are learning about professional identity are seeing that Forbes has also reported that the study indicated female lawyers have been penalized for their assertive behavior, even when part of the job. “Although assertiveness and self-promotion are often needed to succeed in the legal field, women often feel that they must walk a tightrope. If they are too assertive, then they are criticized for not behaving in a ladylike fashion. If they are not assertive enough, then they are often seen as lacking the confidence needed to succeed.”[7]

The struggle for women in the profession is still real, and as such, women need to know how to develop their professional identity to be able to face these challenges.

Professional Identity Education, and a (Re?)-Awakening to Gender in the Legal Profession

For students to develop their professional identity as lawyers, they need to understand more about identity formation overall. As has been written about professional identity, “Our identities are like icebergs. The large bulk of them lies invisible to us below the surface of consciousness…” The non-conscious bulk of identity is called “habitus.[8] A key in  understanding professional identity education is understanding that when “one’s habitus is in dissonance with the professional identity of one’s chosen profession”  a professional can struggle with both success and stress.[9] At the same time, we know that “the formation of a professional identity should be most significantly informed by and consonant with one’s personal identity—including one’s lived experience as a person of, among other things, a particular race, gender, or socioeconomic class.”[10]

This reflection tells me we need to recognize that there exists fundamental conflict between the idea of developing a professional identity as women lawyers and the workplaces in which we are going to enter with those identities accepting them as women.

So that brings me to my viewing of the Barbie movie. Imagine my delight and astonishment, mere minutes into the movie when I hear Lawyer Barbie exclaim, “This makes me emotional, and I’m expressing it. I have no difficulty holding both logic and feeling at the same time and that does not diminish my powers; it expands them! Imagine! Emotion as power! A world where we allowed our full humanity into spaces of collective decision making!”[11]

And I thought, “Well, here’s my professional identity education opener for my new students this fall.”

This is not the first time we’ve seen gender as a fundamental part of law student education coming from pop culture. Many women lawyers point to Legally Blonde in 2001—the final scene where she can “ditch the black and the pantyhose”—as a professional identity moment for Elle Woods that inspired many young women to go to law school. While it may have impacted the decision to attend law school for women, it didn’t quite make huge inroads into integrating a woman’s identity fully into the profession. So now twenty or so years later, here we are with Barbie.

Since the announcement of Barbie, we’ve witnessed the rise of unapologetic hyper-femme codes intertwined in mainstream culture.[12] We’ve heard the acknowledgement that being a woman is “literally impossible.”[13] So that leaves me with two questions in moving forward with professional identity for women lawyers—thanks to Barbie, is it now easier to talk about being a woman in the legal profession, and if not, can we make it easier?

Such questions about women and being able to be themselves as they enter the profession should be an integral part of professional identity education. And in the wake of this national conversation about women—sparked by a movie about a doll—making space and plans for women to discuss their femininity, their often-unique needs in the workplace as women, and how to incorporate those needs into professional identity education may be the key to long-term success for future lawyers.

Suggested Solutions for Teaching Professional Identity

When we teach women to be their whole selves as part of their professional identity, we lay the groundwork for both helping students use the full strength of their character and values to navigate the legal profession as it exists, and also lay the groundwork for changes in the profession in the future. While encouraging women to develop their identity in a way that enables them to navigate the bias that women can feel until a culture change can be made, we can also help all students work to change the culture.

Here are three suggestions in teaching professional identity for law students that can contribute to the success of women entering the profession, each inspired by quotes from the Barbie movie:

  1. Women hate women. And men hate women. It’s the only thing we all agree on.”—Sasha

Help students understand the current deterrents for women to express themselves as women that exist in the workplace, the full range of biases that women face and how all students can contribute to a workplace to eradicate those biases. Additionally, as part of the professional identity education, talk about what women can do without obvious leadership models or mentors. Analyze and discuss why women often keep other women down. You can also explore with students what supports are missing for women in the workplace and how do you develop your guiding principles even if they are missing. For students to truly learn to bring their whole selves to their profession to guide their formation, they must understand the profession itself.

  1. I worked very hard, so I deserve it!”—Nobel Prize Barbie

Explicitly discuss imposter syndrome. Don’t be afraid to include gender identity as part of the equation of why professionals can feel unworthy to be in a position which they have earned. Additionally, though, don’t be afraid to recognize the impact of systematic bias on women, and how it may cause imposter syndrome.[14] Talk about gender and how gender impacts your view of your world. Remind students that trying to please others by being someone else isn’t serving them or their clients. Instead, help them explore how to show up as themselves.[15] Normalize these discussions and help students deal with the problem now, and for the future.

  1. Why didn’t Barbie tell me about patriarchy?”—Ken

Pair professional identity education with cultural competency education. When students understand the struggles inherent to students from all backgrounds, it can help all students understand these issues. When students come to understand the challenges that women are facing in the workplace simply because they are women, it helps lay the groundwork for all members of the profession to change the culture in the future. Ensuring all members of the legal profession are aware of the biases that exist throughout the profession can help them develop as individuals to combat those biases.

I’m hoping that through professional identity education, in the words of Stereotypical Barbie, “By giving voice to the cognitive dissonance required to be a woman under the patriarchy, [we’ve] robbed it of its power,” that women can fully develop with their whole selves as part of the legal profession, and that we, in teaching professional identity, can guide them.

Debra Moss Vollweiler is a tenured Professor of Law at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad College of Law, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.


[1] This blog post arose out of a presentation made at the AALS Annual Meeting 2024 for the Women in Legal Education section.

[2] https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/standards/.

[3] https://blogs.stthomas.edu/holloran-center/introduction-to-the-definition-of-professional-identity-and-the-formation-of-a-professional-identity/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CProfessional%20identity%20formation%E2%80%9D%20is%20a,foundational%20to%20successful%20legal%20practice.%E2%80%9D.

[4] https://www.businessinsider.com/lawyer-who-shamed-coworker-about-maternity-leave-text-fired-2023-1.

[5] https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/publications/youraba/2017/december-2017/aba-summit-searches-for-solutions-to-ensure-career-longevity-for/?login.

[6] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2018/10/01/female-lawyers-face-widespread-gender-bias-according-to-new-study/?sh=70a20e2b4b55.

[7] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2018/10/01/female-lawyers-face-widespread-gender-bias-according-to-new-study/?sh=70a20e2b4b55.

[8] https://www.regent.edu/acad/schlaw/student_life/studentorgs/lawreview/docs/issues/v27n2/10_Thomson_vol_27_2.pdf.

[9] https://www.regent.edu/acad/schlaw/student_life/studentorgs/lawreview/docs/issues/v27n2/10_Thomson_vol_27_2.pdf.

[10] Harmony Decosimo, https://scholarship.law.slu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2321&context=lj.

[11] See the Barbie movie! Also, if you’re a critic of the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United, there’s another layer of commentary woven into Lawyer Barbie’s speech, which many movie goers didn’t catch.

[12] https://www.lofficielusa.com/fashion/barbie-hyper-femininity-ultimate-act-of-feminism-coquettecore-bimbocore.

[13] https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a44725030/america-ferrera-barbie-full-monologue-transcript/.

[14] https://hbr.org/2021/02/stop-telling-women-they-have-imposter-syndrome.

[15] https://www.2civility.org/has-your-professional-identity-morphed-into-something-you-dont-recognize/.

Toni Jaeger-Fine

Introducing the Second Edition of Toni Jaeger-Fine’s Becoming a Lawyer: Discovering and Defining Your Professional Persona (2023)

By: Toni Jaeger-Fine, Senior Counselor, Fordham Law School; Principal, Jaeger-Fine Consulting

Jaeger-Fine’s concept of the Legal Professional Persona refers to a set of attitudes and behaviors that enable success and flourishing in the profession. As legal educators, students, and professionals, we tend to focus on legal knowledge and technical skills to the exclusion of these attributes that comprise the professional persona. The touchstone of cultivating a strong and sustainable professional persona is intentionality, and the goal of this book is to make each of us more deliberate about how we develop and nurture our professional identity.

This second edition is the product of conversations with, and feedback from, hundreds of law students and legal professionals, and the author’s own lifelong journey toward building and refining her own professional persona.

The book is divided into three main parts, reflecting the pillar of the professional persona: fundamentals; self-management; and relationships.

Fundamentals introduces the concept of the professional persona and its importance, discusses the state of today’s legal profession, and identifies the building blocks of a professional persona. In particular, this part examines how we move through stages of competence, the need to create sustainable habits and tools for doing so, the primacy of social and emotional intelligence, and the importance of leadership as a mindset and general orientation rather than a matter of position in a hierarchy.

Self-management—professionalism from the inside—addresses a range of issues relating to mindset and dispositions (such as a positive mindset, commitment to excellence, and character), time management and organization, and well-being. This part also offers a practicaand mindset approach to a sustainable form of well-being.

Relationships—professionalism with the outside—considers working with others, which embraces among other things the importance of inclusive thinking and controlling our cognitive biases, effective communication, managing up and down, and business development and client management. This part also covers talent management, development, and retention, including how to accelerate diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition, this part addresses ensuring that our public professional persona promotes our own professional identity, the goals of the institutions with which we are associated, and the profession more generally.

The book is eminently readable, and most chapters end with a series of questions for reflection, making this book readily adoptable for professional identity courses. Becoming a Lawyer: Discovering and Defining Your Professional Persona is available from West Academic or on Amazon. Please feel free to email me at tfine@fordham.edu if you have any questions or comments.

Patrick Longan

Mercer Law School to Host Symposium on Current Issues in Professional Identity Formation

By: Pat Longan, William Augustus Bootle Chair in Ethics and Professionalism
Director, Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism
Mercer University School of Law

On March 8, 2024, Mercer University Law School and the Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism will host a symposium on current issues in professional identity formation. The Mercer Law Review will publish the articles that emerge from the event.

The symposium is the 24th annual Georgia symposium on professionalism and ethics. The series is funded by an endowment that resulted from the settlement of charges of litigation misconduct in a civil case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia in the 1990’s. That same settlement endowed professorial chairs in ethics and professionalism at Mercer, the University of Georgia, Emory University, and Georgia State. The annual symposium rotates among those four schools.

Mercer’s 2024 symposium will have four main presenters, who will each be followed by two commentators.

David Grenardo of the University of St. Thomas School of Law will present on “How Law Schools Can Help Historically Underrepresented Students Develop Their Professional Identities.” Women, people of color, first gen college and first gen law students, and individuals from the LGBTQIA+ group may have a harder time with their professional identity formation, particularly if they do not have family members, role models, and/or mentors who are lawyers. When you add in structural and institutional racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, bias, and prejudice that are a part of the legal system, it makes it that much more difficult for historically underrepresented individuals to know where and how they will fit in as lawyers. David’s presentation will focus on what law schools can do for these students as they develop their professional identities.

The commentators for David’s presentation will be Barbara Glesner Fines from UMKC School of Law and Janice Craft from the University of Richmond School of Law.

Daisy Floyd from Mercer Law will speak on “The Role of Purpose in Professional Identity.” In Educating Lawyers, the Carnegie Report describes the apprenticeship of “identity and purpose” to emphasize the importance of grounding legal education—and the student’s emerging professional identity as a lawyer—in the public purposes of the profession. During the 1950’s, social scientists began to study the role of meaning and purpose in a person’s life, and the advent of positive psychology in the early 2000’s spurred an emerging body of empirical research on the importance of purpose to a fulfilled and meaningful life. This presentation will address what lessons legal educators can learn from purpose studies to inform our work on the formation of professional identity.

Ken Townsend from Wake Forest Law and Harmony Decosimo from Suffolk Law School will be Daisy’s commentators.

Kendall Kerew from Georgia State College of Law has chosen as her topic, “The Rule of Law, the Role of the Public Citizen, and Professional Identity Formation.” The Preamble of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct defines a lawyer as “a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice,” and charges lawyers as “public citizens” to “seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession” while also “further[ing] the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and justice system. . . .” This presentation will explore the intersection of the Preamble’s definition of lawyer with the intentional exploration of law student professional identity formation and training on cross-cultural competence, racism, and bias required by ABA Standards 303(b)(3) and 303(c) as a means to help students discern their role as future lawyers and empower students in their duties to protect the rule of law as the foundation of democracy, provide access to justice, and make change where the law has created injustice.

Kendall’s commentators will be Eduardo Capulong from CUNY School of Law and Kelly Terry from University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR) William H. Bowen School of Law.

Finally, Aric Short from Texas A&M University School of Law will speak on “Beyond Fiduciary Duties: Developing Discernment to Navigate Conflict in Law Student Professional Identity Formation.” The concept of lawyer as fiduciary is deeply rooted in what it means to be an attorney—it’s integral to our professional identity. Aric’s presentation and paper will explore the concept of the lawyer as fiduciary, including how that label affects well-being messaging and programming in law schools. Aric will identify predictable conflicts that can arise for legal professionals in the areas of values, duties, and priorities and explore how we can more effectively guide students to develop effective skills of discernment to better prepare them for these professional conflicts. 

Carwina Weng from LSAC and Lindsey Gustafson from UALR William H. Bowen School of Law will provide the commentary on Aric’s presentation.

The events begin with a dinner for the speakers, invited guests, and Mercer Law Review members the night of March 7 at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. The Honorable Tony DelCampo, President of the State Bar of Georgia, will provide the welcoming address. The following day’s program will be held in the Bell-Jones Courtroom at Mercer’s law school.

I extend my thanks to all who have agreed to be part of this event. Anyone who is interested in attending or has any questions about the symposium may contact me at longan_p@law.mercer.edu.

group of people
Neil Hamilton

The Professional Responsibility Course Can Engage Students in a Community of Practice on Cross-Cultural Competency, Equal Access and the Elimination of Bias, Discrimination, and Racism

By: Neil Hamilton, Holloran Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Accreditation Standard 303 requires that each law student shall complete a course of at least two credit hours that includes instruction on the values and responsibilities of the legal profession. Interpretation 303-6, adopted in 2022, now requires that the values and responsibilities of the profession to which students are introduced in Professional Responsibility must include the importance of cross-cultural competency and the obligation of lawyers to promote a system that provides equal access and eliminates bias, discrimination, and racism in law.

In the fall of 2023, I changed my three-credit Professional Responsibility course with 68 students to meet the new Interpretation 303-6 requirement in the context of a community or practice that fosters each student’s professional identity regarding the values and responsibilities above. There is a growing body of empirical scholarship pointing toward the importance of communities of practice (CoP) in terms of how professionals define their work and make the discretionary calls involved in the work. A community of practice is a persistent, sustaining social network of individuals who share and develop an overlapping knowledge base, set of foundational values, and experiences focused on a common practice. [One of my latest articles sets forth an extended analysis of this experiment. See Neil Hamilton, Professional Responsibility and Professional Identity Formation in a Community of Practice with Alumni, 20 UNIV. ST. THOMAS L.J. (forthcoming 2024).]

I formed communities of practice by putting the students in teams of four based on each student’s post-graduation area of employment interest and assigning an alumni coach practicing in the team’s area of interest. The team had to discuss with the coach four professional identity formation topics covering discretionary calls of lawyering in the practice areas. The fourth topic for the teams and coaches to discuss and reflect upon focused on cross-cultural competency, equal access, and the elimination of bias, discrimination, and racism in the team’s practice area.

The syllabus assignment for the fourth essay is below.

“This essay may be challenging for the team and the coach. For our profession and our law school, a core guiding principle is to develop cross-cultural competency, and a core value is to promote a legal system that provides equal access and eliminates bias, discrimination, and racism. Team members have been experiencing different types of communities of practice both inside and outside the law building. The team should discuss, deliberate, and reflect on what team members have observed that various communities of practice are doing with respect to this guiding principle and core value. What is each team member doing? What is a next step for this academic year to grow to a later stage of development? The team must interview their coach for this assignment.”

Overall, the teams and coaches had excellent discussions on this topic. Some of the teams and coaches commented that it is a challenging topic, but an important one. A number of essays urged openness about these topics. There were a number of suggestions on how to approach the topic with others including using one-on-one conversations rather than larger group conversations. Another frequent observation was a version of “go where they are” in terms of these conversations, and to listen and understand your conversational partner(s), not to judge them.
The points that the essays raised on the topics of developing cross-cultural competency and promoting a legal system that provides equal access and eliminates bias, discrimination, and racism in the law have some significant overlap on all three of those topics. Here are the most common overlapping themes.

  1. Take specific steps (small steps) to expose yourself to people of different cultures than your own and reflect on what you experience. The major point is to get out of your personal and professional bubble. For example, “get off the bus, and go into stores that serve people of other cultures.”
  2. Exercise authentic curiosity about these other cultures.
  3. Be present and listen actively to speakers from other cultures.

Note that from an enlightened self-interest standpoint, it is becoming more common in an interview, particularly for positions involving people from other cultures, to have a question about what the interviewee is doing specifically to increase cross-cultural competency. It is good to have a story of what you are doing.
The students’ essays based on their discussions with their coaches provided the following suggestions for law students/lawyers on the three main topics:

Developing Cross-Cultural Competency

  1. Seek out individuals who are different from you in your community and engage them in a conversation. For example, in our community, seek out an LL.M. student.
  2. Seek volunteer/public service experience in a community that is different from your own. For example, for transactional lawyers, provide legal assistance to minority businesspeople.
  3. Take a Clinic or an Interviewing and Counseling course.
  4. Learn another language. At least learn a few important introductory phrases like “Hello, how are you? My name is _____. What is your name?”
  5. When creating an event, consider a step to make it more inclusive.
  6. Be patient and especially present with active listening when interacting with a person of a different cultural background.

Promoting Equal Access

  1. Observe and be mindful of deficiencies in equal access in your practice area, and go the extra mile in your communication and attention when you see situations where cultural differences make it challenging for people of different cultures.
  2. If you see deficiencies in equal access in your practice area, say something. Talk to people about possible solutions.
  3. Do pro bono each year that is directed to address the deficiencies in equal access that you are experiencing.

Promoting a Legal System that Eliminates Bias, Discrimination, and Racism

  1. The major suggestion was to be mindful when you see systemic problems and to try to take even a small step to address the problem you see. For example, a prosecutor pro-actively tries to look at data to make sure that the dispositions she is offering are not being affected by race/ethnicity/gender.
  2. Join (or form) a group that is trying to do law reform in your area of practice.
  3. When you see biased or discriminatory conduct, speak up in a professional manner.

Reflecting on the essays, I think that the most important benefit is that each student articulated one concrete step to take to grow to the next level on this challenging topic. Another major benefit is that the practicing alumni lawyers provide credibility that this challenging topic is important for the practice of law, and is not just a topic that professors are imposing on students. In addition, this community of practice approach has the additional benefit of causing practitioners to discuss and reflect on the topics assigned to the teams.

If you have any questions or comments about this post, then please contact me at NWHAMILTON@stthomas.edu.

Neil Hamilton is the Holloran Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

Barbara Glesner FInes, David Grenardo, Jerome Organ, Louis Bilionis, Neil Hamilton

Standard 303 and the Development of Student Professional Identity: A Framework for the Intentional Exploration of the Profession’s Core Values


By Felicia Hamilton, Holloran Center Coordinator

Holloran Center Directors Neil Hamilton, Jerry Organ, and David Grenardo, along with Holloran Center Fellows Barbara Glesner Fines and Louis Bilionis recently co-authored an article that supplies a framework for understanding the core values of the legal profession. The authors’ intention is to guide legal educators into a thoughtful exploration of the nature of these values, and to encourage law school faculty and staff to make intentional choices around how their programs highlight them. Using the metaphor of a tree, the authors address the core values of the “trunk” (a sense of responsibility to those whom the professional serves and the commitment to professional development) and the “branch” values as codified into the Model Rules.

Read more in the abstract for “Standard 303 and the Development of Student Professional Identity: A Framework for the Intentional Exploration of the Profession’s Core Values” below:

Legal educators, following the change in ABA accreditation Standard 303(b)(3)[1], must face directly the question “what are the core values of the legal profession?” This article offers a framework both to help faculty and staff clarify their thinking on what are the profession’s core values and to spotlight the choices law schools need to consider in purposeful fashion.

The framework offered here should also help allay two concerns that faculty, staff, and students may have about core values of the profession.  One concern is that all statements of values are subjective in the sense that they are expressions of individual subjective preferences, beliefs, and attitudes.[2]  A second concern is that statements of values tend to privilege the traditional, and hence fail to reflect the diversity of the profession and the experience and views of marginalized members of the profession – particularly with respect to the elimination of bias, discrimination, and racism.[3]

On the first concern, the article analyzes first the core values of all the service professions to point out two core values foundational to all of them. The article then analyzes the legal profession’s core values articulated in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, adopted with some variation by all fifty states. The fifty-state adoption of the Model Rules indicates a strong consensus on the core values of the profession.  On the second concern, the values framework offered here makes clear that elimination of bias, discrimination, and racism is among the profession’s core values, and that the profession should, on an ongoing basis, seek feedback widely regarding its core values, particularly from marginalized groups, and reflect on the feedback.

Part II outlines the ABA accreditation Standard 303 changes that require each law school to help students develop a professional identity through the intentional exploration of the values of the profession. This means the faculty and staff need to discern the values of the profession they want the students to explore.  Part III analyzes what is a professional identity?  Part IV provides a framework to help legal educators clarify their thinking about the profession’s core values.  The framework features some widely shared fundamental values for all the service professions, and locates also values particular to the legal profession. Part V explores how the core values of the profession in part IV connect to “successful legal practice.”  Part VI discusses cautionary arguments that traditional values like those in the Model Rules can privilege some groups and fail to account for the experiences and viewpoints of marginalized groups.

[1] Standards & Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, Standard 303(b)(3) (Am. Bar Ass’n 2023), [hereinafter Accreditation Standards], https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/standards/2023-2024/23-24-standards-ch3.pdf.

[2] See, e.g., Joseph Singer, Normative Methods for Lawyers, 56 U.C.L.A. L. Rev. 899, 902-911 (2009).

[3] See discussion in Part VI of this article.

You can download the article from SSRN here.

Neil Hamilton is the Holloran Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

Jerome Organ is the Bakken Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law

David Grenardo is a Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Barbara Glesner Fines is the Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Louis Bilionis is the Dean Emeritus and Droege Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

David Grenardo

A Review of Roadmap

James Leipold served as the executive director of NALP (National Association for Law Placement) for over 18 years. He now works as a senior advisor with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Leipold wrote a thorough review of Neil Hamilton’s Third Edition of the award-winning book, Roadmap: The Law Student’s Guide to Meaningful Employment, published by the ABA. Leipold’s detailed and insightful review can be found here.

David Grenardo

2023 Baylor Law Leadership Symposium, Power of Speech: Creating Environments in Which Free Speech and Civil Discourse Thrive

By: David A. Grenardo, Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law

On Thursday, September 28, 2023, Baylor Law School’s Leadership program, in conjunction with the AALS Leadership Section and Baylor Law Review, will host a symposium titled, “Power of Speech: Creating Environments in Which Free Speech Civil Discourse Thrive.” The symposium features national leaders in legal education and the legal profession, including the following individuals: Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law; Deborah Enix-Ross of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, the Immediate Past ABA President; and Mark Alexander, the Arthur J. Kania Dean and Professor of Law at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law and President of the AALS.

The symposium will also showcase several national prominent leaders in professional identity formation, such as Leah Teague, Professor of Law and Director of the Leadership Development Program at Baylor Law School, Timothy W. Floyd, the Tommy Malone Distinguished Chair in Trial Advocacy and Director of Experiential Education at Mercer University School of Law, and Louis D. Bilionis, Dean Emeritus and Droege Professor of Law at Cincinnati College of Law, who is also a Holloran Center Fellow.








The symposium, which will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time, is completely virtual. The full schedule of the symposium and speaker bios can be found here, and this registration link will allow you to sign up for this timely and enlightening symposium. We hope you can find time to attend some or all of this exciting event.

David Grenardo

Integrating Artificial Intelligence Tools into the Formation of Professional Identity

By: David A. Grenardo, Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law

The Holloran Center and the University of St. Thomas Law Journal brought together for the first time 1L and Professional Responsibility casebook authors to discuss ways to implement professional identity formation into the 1L curriculum and Professional Responsibility at the University of St. Thomas Law Journal’s spring 2023 symposium. One of the major reasons for this seminal gathering was to share ideas about professional identity formation amongst law schools from all across the country. Another reason was to generate excellent scholarship that could guide law schools as schools must now comply with the new ABA Standard 303 that requires law schools to provide substantial opportunities for law students to develop their professional identities.

Colleen Medill, the Robert & Joanne Berkshire Family Professor of Law and Director of Undergraduate Academic Programs at the Nebraska College of Law, delivered an amazing presentation at the symposium titled “Writing a Demand Letter: Litigator or Mediator” on a panel that focused on putting students in the role of lawyers, which is one of the ways law students move from law student to lawyer. She also authored an excellent, timely, and innovative article for the symposium issue, Integrating Artificial Intelligence Tools into the Formation of Professional Identity.

Here is the abstract of Professor Medill’s article:

My claim in this Article is that a lawyer’s personal use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the practice of law is now an essential component of a lawyer’s professional identity that must be intentionally developed as a law student before entering the practice of law. After demonstrating the strong connection between the use of AI tools in legal practice, the requirement of lawyer competence, and the formation of professional identity, the Article proposes four “best practices” principles for integrating AI tools with traditional lawyering skills exercises to assist students in the formation of professional identity. The Article concludes with an example that can be used in the first-year Property course.

A link to the article can be found here.

Should you have any questions or comments about the article, please feel free to contact Professor Medill at cmedill2@unl.edu.

David Grenardo

An Unexpected Synergy: How Integrating Professional Identity Formation Exercises in a Civil Procedure Course Not Only Help Students Form a Professional Identity but Also Enhance Their Understanding of Civil Procedure

By: David A. Grenardo, Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Professor Benjamin V. Madison III, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Professional Formation at Regent University School of Law, authored a pretrial practice casebook, Civil Procedure for All States: A Context and Practice Casebook, which was one of the first casebooks that explicitly and intentionally incorporated professional identity formation as recommended by the Carnegie Institute study Educating Lawyers (2007).  Madison presented at the University of St. Thomas Law Journal’s spring 2023 symposium, which brought together 1L and Professional Responsibility casebook authors to discuss how they infuse professional identity formation into the required curriculum.  Madison’s latest article, An Unexpected Synergy: How Integrating Professional Identity Formation Exercises in a Civil Procedure Course Not Only Help Students Form a Professional Identity but Also Enhance Their Understanding of Civil Procedure, will be part of that symposium’s issue.

Here is the abstract of the article:

This article demonstrates that integrating professional identity formation exercises in a required course accomplishes multiple goals.  The Carnegie report stated, “[l]egal analysis alone is only a partial foundation for developing professional competence and identity.”  The report was clear that only the formation of values and the ability to exercise moral judgment would allow students to practice as true professionals.  Both first-year and advanced civil procedure courses feature professional identity formation exercises.  They present dilemmas litigators face, particularly ones that the Model Rules of Professional Conduct do not answer.

The article describes how the effectiveness of the exercises improved depending on how the professor assigned them.  When students read the exercises and discussed them in class, along with cases and other reading, students showed less engagement in the complexity of moral and ethical questions.  Conversely, when students wrote reflection papers on the exercises due before the class discussion, they displayed greater discernment than when students did not write reflections.  After writing about the exercise, more students recognized that reflective lawyers balance multiple interests and the lawyer’s values in resolving an ethical/moral challenge.  The examples explored in the article, as representative of the type of exercises, include various issues that arise in handling a civil suit.  The sample exercises include a choice-of-forum decision, a client’s request to serve a defendant in a specific manner, and two discovery scenarios.  The first discovery scenario depicts a lawyer deciding whether to set a trial and other deadlines later than necessary and how that affects the client, not to mention the lawyer’s financial gain if on a billable hour engagement.  The second discovery example demonstrates efforts to use excessive production of documents to increase the chance that the discovering party misses key documents.

The benefits of the exercises were two-fold.  As a routine, graded part of the course, students gained an appreciation for moral and ethical judgments not answered by the Model Rules.  The courses’ learning objectives state that by engaging in the exercises, students would develop a professional identity that includes values and a moral compass that will answer questions not addressed by the Model Rules.  Therefore, students cultivate values, a moral compass, and the ability to resolve dilemmas they will likely face in practice.  An additional benefit was the improved grasp of the rules and doctrines connected to the scenarios.  Although intended to promote professional identity development, the exercises also reinforced knowledge of the rules and doctrines that formed the context for the exercises.  Hence, students learned these rules and doctrines better than if the exercise were left out.

A link to the article can be found here.

Should you have any questions or comments about the article, please feel free to contact Professor Madison at benjmad@regent.edu.