Entering Law Students’ Conceptions of an Ethical Professional Identity and the Role of the Lawyer in Society

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



professional identity formation


Kegan’s theory of lifespan identity development framed a pilot study of law students’ understanding of professionalism, part of a broader study of ethical professional identity. Four raters trained in Kegan’s stage criteria could reliably assess one of three developmental stages, based on coding essays on professionalism. Correlations of stage scores with moral judgment scores, service learning, and work experience supported the validity of the method. Ethical professional identity assessment can be integrated with courses or mentoring programs to provide students with developmental feedback. This method can also be used to assess law school outcomes with respect to ethical professional identity by comparing growth from matriculation to graduation.