January 18, 2023

Assessing First-Year Professional Development Courses/Programs | University of Saint Thomas School of Law | Grant Outcomes

Academic and Bar Success


This project involved a longitudinal study of first-year law students at 11 participating law schools, most of which have a required first-year course or program focused on professional development or professional identity formation. The first survey was administered to students who started law school in the fall semester (August 2020), and the second survey was administered to students who were completing their first year of law school in the spring semester (April 2021). A total of nearly 300 respondents completed both the fall and spring surveys. 

Overall, respondents entered law school with a good understanding of the competencies that make for successful lawyers, and their experience in the first year of law school did not change their understanding of such competencies. However, results suggest that respondents experienced both a shift away from intrinsic motivation/self-directedness and a shift away from a growth mindset toward more of a fixed mindset. These declines were statistically significant across all sub-populations by gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic status (parents’ education). There were modest differences among sub-populations that were statistically significant:

  • Women respondents more than men respondents and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) respondents more than White respondents showed greater resonance with being a lawyer as a social change agent.
  • Respondents with parents who had not earned a bachelor’s degree were more motivated than respondents with parent(s) who had earned a bachelor’s degree by a desire to help marginalized people and by feeling called to serve others.
  • Men respondents more than women respondents and White respondents more than BIPOC respondents agreed that the judicial system is effective in helping people enforce and protect rights.
  • Women respondents more than men respondents agree with the importance of providing pro bono services.
  • Women respondents showed a greater interest than men respondents in public interest, family law and immigration, whereas men respondents showed a greater interest than women respondents in business, IP, estate planning, bankruptcy, and banking.