Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Definition of Professional Identity for Lawyers

Two posts down, one of my co-bloggers gave a definition of professional identity by Debbie Borman.  I would like to offer my own definition of professional identity and distinguish it from related concepts:

Ethics is the rules of professional conduct, while professionalism is the ability to act in a professional manner, such as being polite, being thorough, and getting work done on time.  (see David Thomson here)  On the other hand, professional identity is a lawyer’s personal legal morality, values, decision-making process, and self-consciousness.   It is "certain attitudes and habits of heart and mind that are thought critical to the practice and culture of the profession." (Barry Sullivan & Ellen S. Podgor, Respect, Responsibility, and the Virtue of Introspection: An Essay on Professionalism in the Law School Environment, 15 N.D.J. Law, Ethics, & Pub. Pol’cy 117, 118 (2001)) In addition, "the cultivation of professionalism necessarily entails the nurturing of a sense of professional self-consciousness and constructive introspection, and an attitude of respect and responsibility to others. . ." (Id. at 119)

(The above is influenced by a dialogue I had with David Thomson between our blogs a couple of years ago.)

(Scott Fruehwald)

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I divide my 60 Legal Profession students into groups of no more than 10 and invite them to my home near the end of each semester. Students read and report on a book (from a short list I provide) that I hope gives them some insights, either into some struggles and successes experienced by lawyers (I use biography of lawyers) or into lawyer behaviors (I use two books, "The Honest Truth" and "Thinking, Fast and Slow). The book discussion then develops into a discussion of issues they see in their own professional development and in the profession over all. The assignment is titled Professional Formation. Comments from this blog are invaluable. Thank you Scott and everyone who comments.

Posted by: Liz Ryan Cole | Nov 11, 2013 4:04:19 AM

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