Standard 303(b)

Standard 303(b)’s requirement that a law school shall foster each student’s development of a professional identity is an opportunity for law schools to benefit students, legal employers, clients, and the law school itself.  A student who grows to a later stage on the two foundational professional identity core values (learning outcomes) – (1) internalizing ownership over the student’s continuing professional development, and (2) internalizing deep responsibility and service to others whom the student will serve as a lawyer including clients, colleagues, and the legal system – is going to benefit the student, the student’s future employers and clients, and the law school itself.  Students at later stages of growth of professional-identity development will achieve better academic performance, better bar outcomes, and better post-graduation employment outcomes.

             New Interpretation 303-6 adds that cross-cultural competency and the obligation of lawyers to promote a justice system that provides equal access and eliminates bias, discrimination, and racism in law should be among the values and responsibilities of the legal profession to which students are introduced.   Essentially, a law school that is fostering each student’s growth toward later stages of development on the foundational core value of internalizing deep responsibility and service to others whom the student will serve as a lawyer including clients, colleagues, and the legal system will be adding to that foundational core value attention to cross-cultural competency and a justice system that provides equal access and elimination of bias, discrimination, and racism in law.

            The Standard 303(b) opportunity to foster the development of each student’s professional identity on these core values is not difficult for faculty and staff to understand.  Faculty and staff can experiment with these professional identity learning outcomes on a limited, step-by-step basis.  Improved academic performance, bar passage, and employment outcomes will be visible. 

            There are many “entry ramps” into the development of each student’s professional identity involving reflection that each law school is already doing including the curriculum in lawyering skills, the clinics, and the other experiential courses, counseling in career services and academic support, initiatives regarding DEI and Belonging, well-being, and leadership, and podium courses with learning outcomes like self-directed learning, internalization of duties to the justice system, and relational competencies like pro bono service, teamwork, cross-cultural competency, and client interviewing and counseling. 

            In April, 2022, Cambridge University Press will publish an open access book – Neil Hamilton and Louis D. Bilionis, Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals. The book, based on the best empirical data from clients, employers, and educational research on effective curriculum, provides actionable steps to legal educators to foster each student’s professional identity. Readers will understand the opportunity for innovation that will benefit both students and the law school.

            In the period before the Cambridge book is published, the best summary of the opportunities presented by the Standard 303(b) revision on student professional identity is a law journal symposium, Twenty-Five Years Since MacCrate’s Four Professional Values and Ten Years Since Educating Lawyers and Best Practices: The Next Steps of a Professional Formation Social Movement, available at https://ir.stthomas.edu/ustlj/vol14/iss2/    The Foreword to symposium describes the professional identity formation movement and the theme of each article in the symposium. http://ssrn.com/abstract=3079958