Fostering Professional Formation (Professionalism): Lessons from the Carnegie Foundation’s Five Studies on Educating Professionals

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



professional identity formation


The American Bar Association is going to change the accreditation standards for law schools to require more emphasis on each student’s professional formation. Professional formation refers to the fostering of students’ formation of an ethical professional identity. This change from a focus on educational inputs like a course on professional responsibility to a focus on clearly-articulated learning outcomes relating to each student’s ethical development that are assessable is a major paradigm shift in legal education.

Legal educators and the profession itself can learn a great deal from the five Carnegie studies of higher education in medicine, nursing, clergy, engineering, and law concerning professional formation. From the turn of the century to 2010, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching conducted dozens of site visits to study how professional schools educate physicians, nurses, clergy, engineers, and lawyers. From these studies, the president of the Carnegie Foundation, Lee Shulman, found that “the most overlooked aspect of professional preparation was the formation of a professional identity with a moral core of service and responsibility,” while the Carnegie foundation’s final study, Educating Physicians, found that “formation [is] the fundamental goal of the learning process,” and “professional formation [is] the purpose that should guide medical education.” This paper provides an analysis of the five Carnegies studies that will guide law faculties in defining learning outcomes for professional formation that are assessable and in selecting the pedagogies most effective to achieve the defined learning outcomes.