Texas A&M University School of Law has been awarded the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism for its 1L course, Professional Identity. The award recognizes the nation’s exemplary, innovative, and ongoing professionalism programs established by law schools, bar associations, courts, and other not-for-profit legal organizations that help ensure the maintenance of the highest principles of integrity and dedication to the legal profession and the public.
The course is taught by Professor Aric Short, who writes and speaks in the area of professional identity (PI) formation and leadership.
The course has been a full-year, required 1L course at Texas A&M School of Law since 2017. Students in the course are introduced to the core values of the legal profession, including integrity and service to the community. Through small group discussions and guided reflections, students also identify their own strengths and passions and explore how they might fit into the practice of law. However, that only scratches the surface, Short said.
“Professional identity is about something deeper,” said Short. “It’s a course about the intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies needed to help students to be successful at a practice. We focus on things like resilience, grit, leadership, networking, wellbeing, ethical decision making, and emotional intelligence.”
Additionally, supplementing the students’ experience in the course are numerous practical activities — like participating in mock interviews and developing relationships with local attorneys and judges — that help students deepen and expand their professional identities.
Over time, the PI course has become a model for other classrooms, often featuring emerging trends and skills sought out by employers.
“No one else was doing this when the class first started. In fact, the class that originally wasn't required is now a required class that other peer institutions are incorporating,” he said.
Professor Short will be awarded at the ABA Division of Bar Services and the National Conference of Bar Presidents Joint Awards Luncheon in Chicago. The event will be held in conjunction with the ABA 2022 Annual Meeting.