Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Religiously Affiliated Law Schools: Ethical Formation in Law School

I'm at Regent Law School today for the RALS conference.  The opening panel features Neil Hamilton (St. Thomas), Benjamin Madison (Regent), and David Grenardo (St. Mary's).  The topic is ethical formation in law school.

Neil presented data regarding the ethical professional identity competencies that students need, discussing the shift to competency-based legal education.  Of the 55 law schools posting learning outcomes on their websites (as required by the ABA), 42 have adopted an ethical professional identity learning outcome that goes beyond what is required by ABA Standard 302(c).  Two foundational professional identity learning outcomes: 1) proactive professional development toward excellence; 2) an internalized deep responsibility to clients and the legal system.  The key is not that law schools agree on learning outcomes; the key is that law faculty engage students in light of chosen learning outcomes.  The research shows that we need to take into account that students are at different stages of development, provide repeated opportunities for student reflection, build into the student's existing narrative by linking future growth to their past experience and current goals, and remember that the process of experience / feedback / reflection is a very effective impetus for growth. 

Ben asked if there is a paradox between ethics and happiness.  Research shows that lawyers who live by intrinsic values -- integrity, compassion, respect, unselfishness, commitment to service -- display greater contentment and health.  Law schools can influence this process by encouraging knowledge of self, knowledge of God, and an attitude of reflectiveness and willingness to grow.

David presented the results of his survey on the use of prayer in law school classrooms.  Of the students at religiously affiliated law schools who responded, 78% liked the fact that their professor prayed at the beginning of class.  Students used words such as "calm, refreshes, tranquility, peace, serenity" to describe the effect of prayer on them.  Other students commented on classroom prayer bringing a sense of unity, regardless of the faith traditions represented in the room.


Vischer, Rob | Permalink