Thursday, February 16, 2023

Should Law Schools Offer A Course On 'Becoming You': Crafting The Authentic Career You Want And Need?: A Response

Paul Caron asked this question on the TaxProf Blog a few days ago.  My response: law schools should already be doing this.  It is a key part of professional identity training, which is required under ABA Standards.

Dean Caron's question was prompted by an article in the Wall Street Journal about such a course being taught at New York University’s Stern School of Business.  Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Are You There, M.B.A.? It’s Me, Industry


"The objective of this class is to guide students through the complex, exhilarating, and sometimes surprising journey of discovering the right career for them, one rich with opportunity, meaning, and impact. “Becoming You” grows out of the premise that the happiest, most fulfilling lives are those lived in your 'Area of Destiny,' the intersection of your best and most unique skills, your deepest and most authentic values, and the economy's most rewarding spaces."

"I've watched countless smart, shiny new graduates from great (and good) colleges and M.B.A. programs, ... [f]abulous degree in hand, with every opportunity in the world before them, off they march, lockstep, to “the big three”—consulting, banking and, starting in 2005 or so, tech. In some cases, the underlying impulse is financial security (read: repayment of student loans). But there’s more to it. It’s a deeply rooted group instinct, virtually inexorable. I wouldn’t call it lemming-like, but maybe lemming-esque."

"Unlike lemmings, though, members of this herd survive to have regrets. A lot of very smart, very capable people, usually in their late 30s and early 40s, wake up miserable one day."

"'Becoming You,' as I conceived it, would help avert this fate by encouraging M.B.A. students to think about careers another way—as a journey toward their 'area of destiny,' the world of opportunity that exists at the intersection of their authentic values, their strongest skills and aptitudes, and the kind of work that interests and excites them intellectually and emotionally."

"T]oday’s M.B.A.s seek meaning and purpose from their work like never before. They want to make change; they want to have an impact. They don’t want to be cogs in machines. Perhaps most important, they are coming to realize that no job offers security—not even one in banking, consulting, or tech."

"So, are you there, industry? If so, consider that this could be your moment to change the talent game with new, bold narratives about the work you do, the lives you change, the futures you contain. Young, talented people at M.B.A. programs everywhere are poised to see you and hear you anew. Draw close, and meet them where they are."

From another article about the course: "Welch searched through Stern’s course catalog only to find that the school lacked a class that would help students live a more purposeful life in a career aligned with their personal values."

Last year, the ABA Council added a professional identity training requirement to the standards: 303"(b) A law school shall provide substantial opportunities to students for: . . . (3) the development of a professional identity." Interpretation 303-5: "Professional identity focuses on what it means to be a lawyer and the special obligations lawyers have to their clients and society. The development of professional identity should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice. Because developing a professional identity requires reflection and growth over time, students should have frequent opportunities for such development during each year of law school and in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities."

I believe that helping students find their place in the legal profession is an important part of professional identity training. Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer chapter 10 (2015).  How can one understand "what it means to be a lawyer," unless one can envision what their place will be in the law in connection with their personal values?  Thus, law schools are already obligated to help students craft authentic careers.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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