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University of Arkansas Law Review (2014)
  • Jan L Jacobowitz, Ms.

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." - George Bernard Shaw.

"When students realize that everyone has a philosophy of how to conduct their lives - even those…[who] are unconscious of the philosophy have one, just not a sound one - they can understand the importance of engaging in the process of developing a philosophy that will guide them in life and in their jobs as lawyers." - Benjamin V. Madison III.

Students enter law school to become lawyers, but what does that really mean? What are a student’s values, hopes and dreams upon entering law school? Essentially, how does the student define herself? The answer varies depending upon the student - students with diverse backgrounds arrive at law school with differing goals. How does the law school experience transform these students and assist them in creating their professional identities as lawyers?

The traditional legal curriculum teaches students how to analytically think like a lawyer, but there is little evidence of traditional pedagogy dedicated to assisting students in developing a personal philosophy about the manner in which to practice law or in creating a professional identity. Moreover, the lack of focus on the values inherent in the role of the lawyer, and the alignment of these values with the personal, intrinsic values of law students as they enter law school, has contributed to an inordinate amount of stress and anxiety for some students. Intrinsic values may become sublimated to extrinsic values and careers are sometimes launched based upon extrinsic goals, which ultimately may lead to dissatisfied, distressed lawyers.

While the need to infuse legal education with more focus on ethics, professionalism and the development of professional identity is not a new concern, it has been given new momentum by the release of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Report, Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law , the recent economic downturn and the evolution of the practice of law driven by technology and the Internet. This article focuses upon the need and the opportunity for curricular reform and provides two examples of courses offered at the University Of Miami School Of Law: Mindful Ethics: Professional Responsibility for Lawyers in the Digital Age and The Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program (“PREP”). These courses are designed to cultivate professional identity, promote ethical conduct and provide students with an opportunity to explore how to create a philosophy that will guide them into healthy, successful careers.

This article will first define and discuss the significance of the development of professional identity in law school. Next, the article will provide a detailed description of the two courses mentioned above and share examples of students’ feedback about the courses. Finally, the article will conclude by expressing the hope that the ongoing reform of legal education, which is focused upon the cultivation of a positive professional identity and the well being of law students, will become a mainstay of legal education and the law school experience.

  • Legal Education,
  • Mindful Ethics,
  • Professional Responsibility & Ethics,
  • Professional Identity
Publication Date
Spring 2014
Citation Information
Jan L Jacobowitz. "CULTIVATING PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY & CREATING COMMUNITY: A TALE OF TWO INNOVATIONS" University of Arkansas Law Review Vol. 36 Iss. 3 (2014)
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