Law Student Professionalism and an Elephant

6 blind men
Several cultures and many disciplines claim the story of six blind men describing an elephant based on the body part each holds, arguing about their observations, and being led by a wise person to a peaceful conclusion of their disagreements.

Is Professionalism an Elephant?
Is an elephant...?

A wall?
A spear?
A snake?
A tree?
A fan?
A rope?

It is all and none of those things.

How is professionalism like an Elephant?
More than a decade ago, when law school alumni and other legal professionals began to ask "Who are these people and why do them seem unprofessional?" career services professionals listened. A large group sat around many tables, and conducted numerous meetings and conference calls as they tried to create guidelines and standards to answer this question: 

What is law student professionalism? Is it...?

Dress? (For your employer, for your day)
Speech? (Too fast, too slow, too loud, too quiet, too informal and "Mall Rat")
Ethics? (What gray areas?)
Deportment and civility? (Will you be boring on U-Tube?)
Work product? (Letter perfect or take the consequences)
Attitude? (Best foot forward)
Emotional intelligence? (Can you define it?)
Working smartly with other generations? (Impeccable behavior at all times)
Maintaining technological competence? (More than with just your phone)
Impeccable electronic persona? (What happens on your blog goes viral and lasts forever)

Every professional needs to consider each of these elements before walking out the door or speaking, writing, texting, faxing, or interacting with others face-to-face or electronically. Why? The consequences to your clients for your errors may side-track your career; the consequences for your reputation and for your license may be beyond your capacity to repair.

Excellent references
Want to learn more? Contact your law school's career office or bar association program committee to arrange a session of Susan Gainen's Professionalism Has Attached program or contact me directly at 651.917.0291 or


Post a Comment