Review: Teaching Professionalism

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By Gerry Hess from Gonzaga University School of Law

Patrick Longan, Teaching Professionalism, 60 Mercer Law Review 659 (2008) [Read fulltext(2.6 MB PDF)] (Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Mercer Law Review, © 2008; reprint courtesy HeinOnline.org)

Law schools are challenged to teach professionalism in Educating Lawyers and Best Practices for Legal Education. The American Bar Association accreditation standards require law schools to teach rules of professional conduct as well as the history, goals, structure, and values of the profession. In this article, Professor Longan describes Legal Profession, a required first-year course at Mercer that responds to these challenges and mandates.

The classroom portion of the Legal Profession course addresses four professionalism lessons: (1) what professionalism means and why it is important to lawyers and the public; (2) what pressures lead lawyers to engage in unprofessional conduct; (3) how the expectations of profession are encouraged and enforced; and (4) how professionalism connects to students’ sense of fulfillment as lawyers.

Several reflective and experiential elements of the course help students connect what they are learning in the classroom and their own professional identities with the reality of the legal profession. Students engage in reflective writing via essays and blog posts throughout the course. Prominent legal professionals speak to the students about meaningful law practice, the development of professional identity, substance abuse, and virtue and spirituality in law practice. Students read and discuss a biography of a famous lawyer. Finally, students conduct an oral history of a lawyer or judge.

For his work on the Legal Profession course, Professor Longan received the 2005 National Award for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching Professionalism from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism, the National Conference of Chief Justices, and the Burge Endowment for Legal Ethics.

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