Symposium on Formation of Professional Identity

Interrogating the Hidden Curriculum: Implications for Formation of Professional Identity

Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver
September 22 & 23, 2023

DU campus

Purpose of the Symposium
Law schools and legal educators need to discern the meaning and application of the development of professional identity in the new ABA Standard 303(b)(3) and consider the fit of the formation of professional identity into an already complex law school curriculum.

For the last 15 years, numerous scholars have attempted to address this challenge, but have struggled to show how the
formation of professional identity (FPI) is distinct from professionalism, ethics, civility, and well-being. Yet the writings often collapse or conflate FPI with one or all of these or seek to compartmentalize the developing field.

FPI is about the growth of one’s personal identity into a professional identity as a lawyer in the legal profession. How do we create the best curricular environment for this growth and development, and what are the barriers to doing so? To find an answer, this symposium will examine the impact of what we teach, both intentionally or unintentionally, and of the law school learning environment we create, both in class and outside of it.

This symposium starts with the premise that the answer may be found in understanding how legal education’s hidden curriculum devalues students’ personal identity and undermines their ability to authentically form their professional identity. This symposium will provide space to discuss w
hat the hidden curriculum in legal education is and how it affects the values, identity, choices, and decisions that our students, especially first years, make. Ultimately this symposium will explore what FPI means, how to support FPI in the first-year curriculum in light of the hidden curriculum, and how to continue to form our student’s professional identity as emerging lawyers in the succeeding years.

Who Should Attend
This symposium comes at a critical time to engage in deep conversation to understand the purpose of 303(b)(3), as well as its relationship with 303(a) & (c). The panel presentations and discussions that follow will have something for everyone who cares about the current state and future of legal education – curricular deans, skills specialists, clinicians, and general faculty. We hope that you will endeavor to join us in this mission.

Symposium Format
Speakers at the symposium have committed to submit their paper for publication in the Journal of the Institute for Law School Teaching and Learning, one of the co-sponsors. The format will feature 3 panels, each of which has its unique place as well as presenting a flow from the preceding panel presentations. After each panel’s presentation, time is allocated for interactive discussion and conversation with symposium attendees. A brief summary of the sessions follows:

  • The opening plenary will explore questions of what is the hidden curriculum of legal education and how is it unconsciously pervasive? How does the hidden curriculum affect the values, identity, choices, and decisions that our students, especially first years, make? How does it bolster myths about the legal profession? How does it foster certain values and undermine others?
  • Panel 1 will explore, generally, the importance of connecting with our students so that our institutions and the legal profession do not lose who our students are and why they are here. Panelists will discuss both the importance of valuing our students’ life experiences, values, race, culture, and other aspects of who they are from day one, as well as the cost of not doing so.
  • Panel 2 will discuss precisely how the hidden curriculum impacts the first year and will provide ideas and prescriptions for how to engage our students in ways that give them agency to build their professional identity and to sustain a range of values, their well-being, and their connection with specific aspects of their identity, be it race, gender, etc..
  • Panel 3 will explore the key attributes in working with students to form their professional identity in their second and third years. This panel will also address the need to distinguish the formation of professional identity from collapsing into other areas such as civility, professionalism, and ethics.

Registration Fee:  $149


The symposium will begin at Noon on Friday, September 22, 2023 at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. It will begin with an introduction and an opening plenary during lunch. This will be followed by three panel presentations, with breaks, and the day ends with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, with dinner on your own. The symposium reconvenes Saturday morning for a sit-down breakfast and panel discussion, followed by the third panel and a closing Keynote. Box lunches will be provided for those who would like to stay for an informal lunch, or to take to the airport. Please register online by September 15.

The symposium is organized by the undersigned together with the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning and its new Journal of Law Teaching and Learning, the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Conference committee:
Susan Brooks (Drexel), Eduardo Capulong (CUNY), Lindsey Gustafson (Arkansas), Jerry Organ (St. Thomas), David Thomson (Denver), Cliff Zimmerman (Northwestern).

  • Lodging Information

    There are many hotels near the DU Campus, but none of them are within walking distance, unfortunately.  We have had good luck during prior conferences with these four hotels, but there are no specific package or conference rates that have been negotiated with them.  The Curtis is on the Denver Light rail system, while the others are a fairly short Lyft ride to campus.

    The Curtis is a fun, hip, downtown boutique hotel where our conference attendees often enjoy staying.  It is located one block from the light rail, which (taken to the south) has a stop at the University of Denver.  It is a ten-minute walk to the Law School from the DU stop.  Learn more about the Curtis hotel here.

    Courtyard Denver Cherry Creek

    Hilton Garden Inn Denver Cherry Creek

    Residence Inn Denver Cherry Creek


  • Local Restaurants

    Restaurants Near the Sturm College of Law

    Within Walking Distance

    Pete’s University Park Café
    2345 E. Evans Ave
    (303) 733-7376
    Einstein Bros Bagels
    1213 E Evans Ave
    (303) 722-9300
    Tatsu Sushi Ramen
    2022 S. University Blvd.
    (303) 777-8388
    Chipotle Mexican Grill
    1644 E. Evans. Ave
    (303) 722-4121
    Pho Saigon Star
    2045 S. University Blvd.
    (720) 633-8133
    Tokyo Bowl
    2337 E Evans Ave
    (720) 570-0720
    Mustard’s Last Stand
    2081 S. University Blvd.
    (303) 722-7936
    Serene Cuisine of India
    2070 S University Blvd
    (303) 284-6584
    Jerusalem Restaurant
    1890 E. Evans Ave.
    (303) 777-8828
    Pita Fresh
    2075 S University Blvd
    (303) 955-8711
    Noodles & Company
    1737 E. Evans Ave.
    (720) 535-7872
    Illegal Pete's
    1744 E Evans Ave
    (720) 974-2198
    Yum Yum Spice
    4318, 2039 S University Blvd
    (720) 542-9921
    1535 E Evans Ave
    (720) 242-8106
    Jelly Café
    1700 E Evans Ave
    Phone number
    (720) 596-4108
    Snarf’s Sandwiches
    1729 E Evans Ave
    (303) 777-1664


    Short Drive

    La Belle Rosette
    2423 S University Blvd
    Denver, CO 80210
    (720) 508-4469
    Sexy Pizza
    1579 S Pearl St
    (303) 777-5878
    Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta
    1628 E. Evans Ave.
    (303) 744-3137
    Que Bueno Suerte
    1518 S Pearl St
    (720) 306-9328
    Lucile's Creole Cafe E. Evans
    2095 S Ogden St
    Denver, CO 80210
    Maddie's Restaurant
    2425 S Downing St
    (720) 389-8068
    The Pioneer Bar
    2401 S University Blvd
    (720) 536-4802
    Lincoln's Roadhouse
    1201 S Pearl St
    (303) 777-3700
    Which Wich
    3970 E Buchtel Blvd
    (303) 584-9424
    Spanky’s Roadhouse
    1800 E Evans Ave
    (303) 733-6886
    Washington Park Grille
    1096 S Gaylord St
    (303) 777-0707
    Vert Kitchen
    704 S Pearl St
    (303) 997-5941
    Sushi Den
    1487 S Pearl St
    (303) 777-0826
    1529 S Pearl St
    (303) 777-0500
    Park Burger
    1890 S. Pearl St.
    (720) 242-9951
    Palizo Italiano
    1472 S Pearl St
    (720) 379-8595
    Tokyo Premium Bakery
    1540 S Pearl St
    (720) 531-3784
    Candlelight Tavern
    383 S Pearl St
    (303) 778-9530
    Tavern Platt Park
    1475 S Pearl St
    (303) 226-1766