Rethinking Thinking Like a Lawyer
January 23, 2024
Start Time: 4:30 pm
Duration: 60 Minutes

Law school and the practice of law train attorneys to “think like a lawyer,” which includes legal analysis, risk-aversion, attention to detail, and strong judgment in challenging situations. While this skeptical mindset may be appropriate and desirable in certain aspects of the practice of law, these professional advantages can come with serious personal costs. Specifically, pessimism can carry a significant risk for mental health challenges. Indeed, lawyers struggle with high rates of depression, anxiety, and substance use. And yet, legal service presents tremendous opportunity for attorneys to experience a career that is high in meaning, purpose, and occupational well-being. In February 2022, the American Bar Association amended Standard 303 to require law schools to provide “substantial opportunities to students for the development of a professional identity.” For more experienced attorneys, these questions of professional identity may be new but the concept relates to the strength-based approach positive psychology has long employed. As the next generation of law students becomes well-versed in professional identity and their own strengths, we encourage their future supervisors and colleagues to consider the same themes. Join us to reflect on your own strengths, identities, values, motivations, and aspirations as a professional, informed by our respective experience in teaching professional identity curriculum and in the application of positive psychology at a legal employer. Help discover – or rediscover – your “why” in our interactive workshop.


Learning objectives:

  1. Understand the ABA standards requiring instruction on professional identity, define professional identity and how it applies to legal practice at any level and in any area
  2. Develop an understanding of the relationship between well-being and professional identity
  3. Learn concrete skills based on the science of Positive Psychology for developing and sustaining a strong professional identity in practice. Example skills include the application of character strengths, personal values, relationships, and intrinsic motivation.