Legal education is a powerfully transformative experience.' Law students enter law school as non-lawyers guided by the personal attitudes, values, and beliefs that drew them to the law and, within a few short years, leave law school with a new professional identity and purposethat of lawyer. While in law school, students learn about the law, acquire distinctive lawyering skills and habits, and develop an understanding of the many ethical obligations that guide a professional's actions. They develop new ways of thinking, talking, writing, and interacting with others. And throughout this process students take on new values, attitudes, and beliefs. In this way, "law schools shape the minds and hearts of their graduates in enduring ways. This is true of habits of thinking such as analytical skills, but it is especially salient in the development of professional purpose and identity."
Often, however, students are not fully aware of the transformative impact of their legal education upon their identities, in part because the transformative experience is often an unconscious and unintentional component of the law school curriculum and pedagogy. This unintentional treatment of a student's transformative experience advances the "hidden curriculum," the unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that students learn in law school.3 It is significant that the process is hidden, that is, the process is not an intentional and explicit feature of the curriculum and pedagogy. ...
In this Article, we explain why experiential learning is essential to the professional identity formation of our students. In addition, we discuss the opportunities externships provide to facilitate professional identity formation and provide strategies for overcoming the challenge of student resistance. Finally, we provide detailed descriptions of two different externship seminar courses intentionally designed to cultivate professional identity and purpose.
Timothy W. Floyd and Kendall L. Kerew, Marking the Path from Law Student to Lawyer: Using Field Placement Courses to Facilitate the Deliberate Exploration of Professional Identity and Purpose, 68 Mercer L. Rev. 767 (2017).