First Year Course on Professional Identity

In February 2022, the American Bar Association approved an amendment to its Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools to require law schools to provide substantial opportunities for the development of professional identity. Since 2004, Mercer Law School has required all first-year students to complete a three-credit course on professional identity, known as “The Legal Profession.” As schools develop or improve their programs on professional identity, we hope that this page and our experience will prove useful.

When we started teaching The Legal Profession, there were no texts available on the subject. After years of teaching the course, three of us, Patrick Longan, Daisy Hurst Floyd, and Timothy Floyd, published The Formation of Professional Identity, which is now in its second edition. We now use it as our primary text for the course. We have published an overview of the book on the Holloran Center Professional Identity Formation Implementation blog.

The Legal Profession course includes several methodologies. The students are introduced to the concept and components of professional identity through a series of presentations that are mostly tied to chapters in The Formation of Professional Identity. Then the students participate in small groups of about thirty-five students each in the discussion of a series of increasingly complex problems and dilemmas. These discussions require the students to exercise each of the six virtues. Meanwhile, the students have weekly writing assignments related to the development of professional identity, many of which are reflective exercises either on assigned readings or the weekly small group discussions. The first-year class as a whole also attends a series of interviews of a diverse roster of distinguished lawyers and judges who provide insight into different parts of the profession and serve as exemplars for students as they begin to craft their professional identities. This is the “Inside the Legal Profession” series. The students also interview a local lawyer or judge in small groups about life in the law.

You can see the 2024 syllabus and other materials related to this year’s course here.

In 2005, Professor Longan received the National Award for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching Professionalism for his work on the course from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism, the Conference of Chief Justices, and the Burge Endowment for Legal Ethics.  Mercer Law School received the E. Smythe Gambrell Award from the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism in 2014 for the “Inside the Legal Profession” series.

We hope you find this information and the related materials helpful. We welcome questions and comments about our approach to teaching professional identity. You can reach Professor Longan at or (478) 301-2639.