Grantee Research

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date



professional identity formation


Over the last several years, there has been a significant growth across law schools in the number of required first-year courses/programs focused law student professional development. We do not know very much, however, about which of these approaches to fostering professional formation is the most effective.

To a large extent these courses/programs have been designed based on convenience/motivation. Within a given law school, someone who wants to champion this effort to promote professional development/formation takes the initiative and within the particular curricular ecosystem and political economy of the faculty of that law school designs something they think is interesting and beneficial that also is palatable to enough faculty to get approved as an addition to the curriculum. As a result, these professional development courses/programs come in a variety of stripes with a variety of points of emphasis.

These courses/programs have not necessarily been designed with a specific set of learning objectives or a plan for assessment of whether those learning objectives have been accomplished. There has not been much assessment (or at least, not any published assessment) of the effectiveness of these courses/programs.

With the addition in 2022 of ABA Standards 303(b)(3) and Standard 303(c), law schools will now have to generate more opportunities for students to reflect upon their professional identity as a lawyer and to become more cognizant of bias and racism within the legal system as well as the need for cultural competence to provide meaningful access to justice for people from different cultural backgrounds.

Over the last two decades, there has been a growing awareness that the first-year of law school functions as a formation/socialization experience as law students begin their journey into the profession. Starting with the research work of Larry Krieger and Ken Sheldon, the first-year has been shown to facilitate a decline in well-being among law students along with a shift from intrinsic motivation to extrinsic motivation.

This research endeavor was designed to try to begin the process of developing methods for assessing the effectiveness of professional formation/development courses while also providing further insights into the consequences of the first-year socialization experience (and whether the professional formation/development courses ameliorated or changed some of the socialization experience).