Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


We have been teaching, writing, and speaking about professional identity formation for many years. Over that period, we have arrived by various routes at a virtue ethics approach to professional identity formation. In this article, we will share our approach and include lessons for the first year of law school and beyond.

Our commitment to a virtue ethics approach did not emerge overnight. It evolved over the years and comes from our varied experiences. Pat Longan's path emerged from his experience as a teacher and scholar of professional responsibility who was asked in 2002 to develop a stand-alone course on professionalism. Tim Floyd's journey was through the convergence of the religious lawyering movement and his work as a clinical and experiential education teacher. Daisy Floyd's interest began with the then-nascent well-being movement and was shaped by being a part of several projects of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching focused on professional identity and practical reason.

Our various perspectives and individual personalities came together about fifteen years ago when we became colleagues on the faculty of the Mercer Law School. Together, we have been deeply influenced by colleagues at Mercer, by teachers and scholars at other institutions, and by our students. We learned from theologians and from philosophers, both modem and ancient. We found ourselves drawing on lessons from modern psychology, particularly the Four­Component Model of Morality and Self-Determination Theory, a branch of positive psychology that studies well-being. The journey introduced us to people and subjects that we otherwise would never have encountered. ...

We recognize that few law professors have the luxury of a required three­ credit course in the first-year curriculum devoted to professional identity. But we believe that there are lessons in our experience for anyone who teaches professional identity anywhere in the law school curriculum. In this article, we will elaborate on what we mean by a virtue ethics approach to professional identity (Part II), describe our course (Part III), and suggest some ways that others might use what we have learned in other types of courses (Part IV).