Sunday, December 13, 2020
Mentor/Coach: The Most Effective Curriculum to Foster Each Student's Professional Development and Formation by Neil W. Hamilton
Professor Neil Hamilton begins his new article on teaching professional identity to law students with the following sentence: "Law schools must give more attention to fostering each student’s growth toward both ownership of the student’s own continuous development and the relationship skills that clients and legal employers need." In my opinion, this sentence lays out one of the essential goals of a twenty-first century legal education.
In this article Professor Hamilton presents a curriculum for achieving this goal. Here is the abstract to his article:
"Law schools must give more attention to fostering each student’s growth toward both ownership of the student’s own continuous development and the relationship skills that clients and legal employers need. A fast-growing number of law schools (almost a third of all law schools) are moving in this direction and experimenting with required professional development and formation curriculum in the 1L year to respond to concerns about bar passage, post-graduation employment outcomes, and student well-being. Since many disadvantaged students in particular need help to grow toward later stages of both ownership of professional development and relationship skills, law schools considering a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative should give attention to required professional development and formation curriculum as part of the initiative. These skills are also important for initiatives to foster student wellbeing.
Part II of the article outlines the principles supported by empirical research that can guide curriculum development for these new student professional development and formation initiatives. The principles point toward a one-on-one continuous mentoring/coaching model as the most effective curriculum to foster each student’s growth toward later stages of these two foundational learning outcomes. Part II analyzes why combining themes from the mentoring literature and from the coaching literature to create a mentor/coach model makes the most sense to foster growth toward these outcomes. Part III outlines the principles that should inform the mentor/coach interaction with the mentee/coachee students. Part IV provides important considerations in mentor/coach selection and training. Part IV also considers how to minimize the budgetary impact of a continuous mentor/coach model for each student by gradual steps in a long-term strategic plan."
I would like to emphasize one point in the above. Professor Hamilton asserts that such a program would particularly help disadvantaged students. I agree strongly with this statement. Throughout my scholarship on legal education, I have stressed that the innovations in legal education would help students from disadvantaged groups the most. (e.g., here) Instead of complaining how poorly minority students do on the bar, law schools and law professors need to adopt these educational innovations so minority students will do better.