Paul L. Caron

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Morals And Mentors: What The First American Law Schools Can Teach Us About Developing Law Students' Professional Identity

Benjamin V. Madison (Regent) & Larry O. Natt Gantt, II (Regent), Morals and Mentors: What the First American Law Schools Can Teach Us About Developing Law Students' Professional Identity, 31 Regent U. L. Rev. 161 (2019):

This article examines what the first American law schools can teach current legal educators about how best to develop law students’ professional identity. Drawing upon the seminal reports of Educating Lawyers and Best Practices for Legal Education, the article underscores legal educators’ responsibility to cultivate our students’ professional identity and instill in them the key normative values of the profession. Turning to the lessons we can learn from early American law schools, the article then discusses how legal educators in America, from colonial times through the late nineteenth century, sought to teach aspiring lawyers both legal analysis and the study of — and reflection on — ethical and moral principles underlying the law.

The article next considers how a variety of influences led to a de-emphasis on ethical formation in the instruction of law students and to the development of teaching legal analysis as the primary mission of law schools. This part also discusses related changes in the legal profession which accompanied these changes in legal education. The final part explores the elements of early law school education related to values formation, including the role of mentoring, and provides recommendations on how these elements can be integrated into modern law school teaching. The article concludes that law schools today can best marry present and past by employing modern pedagogical practices to re-emphasize the importance of developing “lawyer-statespersons” who exhibit practical wisdom and share a passion for pursuing the common good.

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