Law School Professional Development Initiatives in the First Year

The following list was compiled by Rupa Bhandari, Asst. Dean & Adjunct Prof., Santa Clara Law and Prof. Jerry Organ, Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law.  The list includes 62 first-year, required, law school professional development initiatives based on information from law school websites as of November 2019.  

The list is broken into two tabs below.  The first tab showcases the 44 law schools that have required, credit-bearing courses in the first-year with some emphasis on professional formation or professional development.  Some of these courses are one credit, some are two-to-three credits, and some are courses with professional formation integrated into a lawyering skills or professional responsibility course.  Thus, these 44 courses are segregated into these three categories. The second tab showcases the 18 law school that have a zero-credit course or a graduation requirement that focuses on something that must be completed as a first-year law student. For those courses or requirements for which we have received a syllabus or a description, there is a hyperlink to a copy of the syllabus or description.

ONE-CREDIT COURSES (26 law schools)TWO-THREE CREDIT COURSES (7 law schools)INTEGRATED COURSES (11 law schools)

University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law -Preparing to Practice” 1 credit over two semesters.

Elon University School of Law – “Lawyering, Leadership & Professionalism,” 2 credits; 1 credit in August and 1 credit in Spring trimester.

University of California, Irvine School of Law - Legal Profession I & II (2 credits each semester) + assigned mentor.

University of Arkansas Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law-Professionalism and the Work of Lawyers”- 1 credit over two semesters.

University of Florida Levin College of Law- “Introduction to Lawyering & the Legal Profession” 2 credit Fall semester class focuses on evolving nature of legal services, types of law practices, demographics of the legal profession and skills.


Case Western Reserve University School of Law- “Legal Writing, Leadership, Experiential Learning, Advocacy, and Professionalism” – 6 credits over two semesters.


J. Reuben Clark Law School (BYU Law)- “Professional Skills Training”- 1 credit over two semesters.

Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law -The Legal Profession” examines what professionalism means for lawyers. 3 credits, Spring.


City University of New York School of Law (CUNY) – “Lawyering Seminar I and II” – 8 credits over two semesters focuses on legal reasoning, professional responsibility, legal writing, and other lawyering skills.


University of California, Davis School of LawLawyering Process” – 1 credit in Spring.

University of North Dakota School of Law- “Professional Foundations” 2 credits- professional role, identity, and practice for lawyers.


George Washington University Law School- “Fundamentals of Lawyering I & II” 3 credits-Fall; 3 credits- Spring. Professional identity, client communication, and professional development with legal research/writing.


Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law - “Foundations of Legal Profession” 1 credit spring semester class exploring professional identity, values in the profession, and career pathways.

Penn State Dickinson Law: “Problem Solving I: The Lawyer and Client” 2 credits in Fall.


Gonzaga University School of Law: “Litigation Skills + Professionalism Lab & Transactional Skills” 2 credits in Fall; 2 credits in Spring.


University of Illinois College of Law- “Fundamentals of Legal Practice” 1 credit in Spring. 

University of St. Thomas School of Law- “Moral Reasoning for Lawyers” 1 credit Fall + “Serving Clients Well” 1 credit Spring + Mentor program.


The University of Kansas School of Law- “Lawyering Skills II” 3 credits in Spring with integrated professional development.


Lewis & Clark Law School- “Foundations of Professional Practice” helps define professional identity, improve professionalism/job-seeking skills, and enhance communication skills.

University of San Diego School of Law– Experiential Advocacy Practicum – 1 credit each semester.  


University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law- “Legal Research, Writing;” 2 units in Fall; 4 in Spring; also introduces many facets of professionalism and skills necessary to make ethical and professional choices. 


Loyola University Chicago School of Law- “Professional Identity Formation,” 1 credit, Fall.


Northeastern University School of Law-Legal Skills in Social Context” 8 credits over two semesters, combines legal research and writing, problem solving skills, and real client work in 1L year.

University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. “The Legal Profession;” begins to shape professional identity and bring professional goals into focus. - 1 credit, Spring.


Samford University Cumberland School of Law – “Lawyering & Legal Reasoning I & II,” 3 credits each semester with integrated professional development.


University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law – 1 credit in Fall. Explore career paths, concepts of legal professionalism, the business of law, the "soft skills" required for effective lawyering and develop an individual career strategy.

 St. Mary’s University School of Law – “LCAP Legal Communication, Analysis, and Professionalism,” 6 credits across two semesters. 

University of New Mexico School of LawLab”, 1 credit in Fall; think about the role of the lawyer within the profession and within society. Instructors develop practical exercises in fact identification, claim development and client interviews.


Seton Hall University School of LawIntroduction to Lawyering I & II, 3 credits each semester with integrated professionalism.


New York Law School- “Foundations in Study of Law” (Fall) and “Foundations for the Pursuit of Professionalism” (Spring), 1 credit over two semesters.


Northern Illinois University College of Law- “Introduction to Legal Profession I & II” 1 credit at end of academic year. (Not being offered in 2019-20, but plan to require it again in future academic years.)


University of North Texas- Dallas College of Law- “Fundamentals of Being a Lawyer” 1 credit in Spring.


Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law- “Legal Problem Solving & Analysis”- January Term.


Regent University Law School- “Foundations of Practice” 1 credit in Spring.


University of Richmond T. C. Williams School of Law - hiring now for a Faculty Director of Professional Identity Formation; plan to have mandatory 1L class and upper division electives/ co-curricular offerings.


University of South Carolina School of Law- “Introduction to the Legal Profession,” 1 credit in Fall.


University of South Dakota School of Law – “Foundations of Law,” 1 credit.


Southern Illinois University Law School- “Professionalism and the Law I and II” 1 credit over two semesters.


The University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Law- “Lawyering and Professionalism” 1 credit in Fall.


Texas A&M University School of Law- “Professional Identity Course” + Professionalism & Leadership Program. 1 credit in Fall.


University of Tulsa College of Law- “Dean's Seminar on the Legal Profession” 1 credit in Fall. 


Villanova University's Charles Widger School of Law - Professional Development Curriculum all 3 years. 1L Requirement (1 unit); Upper level - Courses Professional Development II & III available (1 credit for each).


Wake Forest University School of Law- “Professional Development Class”- 1 credit

Graduation Requirement (18 law schools)

Baylor Law School-Professional Development Program-15-18 hours over three years modeled after CLEs.

University at Buffalo School of Law- 1L Career Office programming required in order to register for 2L classes.

Chapman University's Dale E. Fowler School of Law - All students are required to complete 5 sessions of professional development training + events identified by Career Office by end of 1L year of legal study.

University of Chicago Law School- Kapnick Leadership Development Institute- partnership with Business school, begins at off-site retreat pre 1L classes (at Orientation) and continues with modules in 1L year.

University of Cincinnati College of Law -Professional Development Program- must attend 3 annual planning meetings with Center for Professional Development + do professional development plan. Reflective piece.

University of Denver Sturm College of Law - Career and Professional Development Credit - Each 1L must complete 5 sessions of their choice (from core competencies) during 1L year + 2 individual Career Office meetings after 1L year.

DePaul University College of Law-Preparing to Practice I & II” 0 credits. Fall (job search skills) & Spring (communication, time management, social media).

Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law - “Professional Fundamentals” – Fall semester – 0-credit.

University of Houston School of Law: “Passport to Success Program”- 4 mandatory 1L learning sessions, as well as year-round advising and 30+ networking and recruiting events for all students.

University of Idaho College of Law:  Professionalism Education Program:  Grad Requirement.

Michigan State University College of Law- “Foundations of Law” 0 credit. Mostly academic skills + a little professionalism.

University of Missouri School of Law- Grad requirement- Programming falls into three types: Job Search Skills, Career Exploration (such as Life of a Lawyer lunches, practice-area panels, employer site visits, etc.), and Professional Development. 1Ls must attend a boot camp plus some programming.

Nova Southeastern Shepard Broad College of Law – Legal Skills and Professionalism I & II, 0 credits.

University of Oregon School of Law- Professional Planning Requirement- must complete program.

Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law - register with Center for Career and Professional Development, have at least 1 in person meeting, earn 6 PD credits from workshops & events.

Pepperdine University School of Law- Introduction to Professional Formation - The Parris Institute for Professional Formation consists of (1) Launch Week, (2) The Parris Institute 1L Series, and (3) Academic Mastery Workshops. Preceptor and Mentor program and upper division programming.

St John’s University of Law- “Professional Development Class”-Fall 0 credit Job search strategies, hiring timeline, how to draft legal resume/cover letter, interviewing, and professionalism.

Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School Professional Development Series.

To be included on this list, a course or program had to include some type of engagement with professional identity or professional values.  A course or program that just offered skill instruction without some engagement with professional identity or professional values was excluded from the list.  While we tried to err on the side of being over-inclusive, this list may not be complete. The list is intended to demonstrate that a large number of law schools are taking steps to address professional development to make students more practice-ready for the legal profession.