Analyzing Common Themes in Legal Scholarship on Professionalism

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



professional identity formation


The ABA is going to change the accreditation standards to require more emphasis on fostering each student’s ethical professional formation. This requires a paradigm shift in legal education 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.

Law schools need help to define assessable learning outcomes for professional formation. This paper provides an analysis of existing scholarship on professionalism that will guide faculties in defining specific learning outcomes for professional formation in the context of existing scholarship in the field. There is substantial consensus among scholars that professionalism’s foundation in an internalized moral core or personal conscience. Several scholars emphasize the critically important point that a student’s understanding of professionalism is developmental meaning a student grows over time toward a fully-internalized understanding of professionalism. This means that legal educators must tailor educational engagements to each student’s stage of development.