Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Orientation and Professional Identity Formation

Orientation is a time of exuberance and great excitement. It is the first step in a three year journey which will take students on a roller coaster ride of hard work, emotion, exhaustion, confusion, hope and discovery. Orientation presents an opportunity to help students understand that law school is more than just learning the law.  Students should seek to obtain a whole range of skills. As described in Best Practices for Legal Education, “Rogelio Lasso concluded that good lawyers possess four competencies:  1.  Knowledge which includes technical and general knowledge.  This competency involves the cognitive and analytical skills that have been the principal focus of legal education since the advent of law schools.  2.  Skill which includes two types of lawyering skills:  ‘those needed to obtain and process information and those which enable the lawyer to transform existing situations into those that are preferred.’  3.  Perspective which is the ability to consider the historical, political, ethical and moral aspects of a legal problem and its possible solutions.  4.  Personal attributes which refers to qualities of character that pertain to the way lawyers go about their professional activities and relate to others.” Rogelio Lasso, From the Paper Chase to the Digital Chase: Technology and the Challenge of Teaching 21st Century Law Students, 43 Santa Clara L. Rev. 1, 12-13 (2002).  Invite your new students to be active participants in their education.  Have them think carefully about the classes they choose.  Encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities to enhance their learning and to obtain skills not taught in the classroom.  Urge them to develop relationships with their classmates and to take risks.  Most of all, make students aware of the “Third Apprenticeship” as described in the Carnegie Foundation report.  “The third apprenticeship, which we call the ethical-social apprenticeship, introduces students to the purposes and attitudes that are guided by the values for which the professional community is responsible…” Best Practices for Legal Education, p. 62.  Helping students to develop the competencies to effectively represent clients includes developing behaviors and integrity in situations.  Ask them to be mindful of their conduct in their interactions inside as well as outside of law school.  Tell them you expect them to display civility, honesty, integrity, character, fairness, competence, ethical conduct, public service and respect for the rule of law, the courts, clients, other lawyers, witnesses and unrepresented clients.  As adopted by the New Mexico Commission on Professionalism, 2000.  Law schools can have a lasting impact on legal education right now by taking these simple steps. (Bonnie Stepleton)

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