Name: Sophie Sparrow

Title: Professor, Director of Legal Skills

School: Franklin Pierce Law Center

Mailing Address:

2 White Street

Concord, NH 03301

Phone: 603-228-1963 ext. 1205


Home Page:


Summary Description:

We teach professionalism in two required first year courses, Legal Skills I and II. Having each student participate as a professional is a goal of each course, and comprises 20% of a students final grade. Teaching sections of 19-25 students twice a week, we tailor our teaching to individual students, provide professionalism criteria in advance, and base our assessments on students performance. Because we believe and want to show students that they can all earn As in professionalism, we award students full professionalism points at the beginning of the semester these are theirs to lose.

On the very first day of class, we explain that we teach aspects of professionalism because these first year students will soon be attorneys and must be prepared to earn the trust of others. We structure our classes as if we worked together in a legal organization, and focus on the following:

   Behavior treating law school staff, classmates, teaching assistants, professors everyone associated with the course with respect and dignity. This includes taking the time to fully listen as well as speak.

   Resourcefulness taking the initiative to use resources to solve problems.               

   Taking risks stretching themselves and acknowledging the discomfort in learning. This can mean volunteering to speak for a shy student, not dominating a group discussion for one who is more vocal.

   Attitude having a positive approach to working with classmates, voicing concerns directly, and proposing solutions rather than complaining about problems.

   Depth and thoughtfulness including in-class contributions and out-of-class assignments.

   Investing in learning and growing from mistakes seeking to learn from mistakes, asking questions about confusing material, talking to professors or teaching assistants when not performing well.

   Effort and perseverance working hard to improve skills throughout the semester.

   Timeliness completing assignments on time, being prepared for and attending class.

Our philosophy is that we can only expect and assess professionalism if we have first identified its complexities and assessment criteria, and regularly coached students to meet those criteria. We also believe that if we expect students to take it seriously, we need to treat it as seriously as another course. In addition, if we expect students to learn professionalism, we must model it ourselves and explain why it matters. While many of us know what we mean by professionalism, our experience is that this is not true for many of our students.

In the context of Legal Skills I and II, in which we teach legal analysis, research and writing, students learn about professionalism in many ways. They attend guest lectures given by practicing attorneys and judges. Students describe their impressions of lawyers they have observed arguing appellate issues. They frequently work collaboratively on in-class assignments, and have assignments due almost every week. Several times a semester they write cognitive protocols in which they write about their learning and how they will improve their skills. During the semester, students discuss how they might apply these skills in practice.


Program History:

We started teaching professionalism as part of the required first year Legal Writing and Analysis courses in the fall of 1999, and have included it every semester since. Based on what we have learned from previous semesters, each year we have altered the methodology used to describe, teach and assess student professionalism.

Over the past five years, we have raised our expectations and standards. We have found that when we are clear about these from the beginning of the course, and explain the consequences, students learn quickly and respond accordingly.

Although many professors teach sections of Legal Skills I and II, we share goals and objectives, teaching and assessment methods. Legal Skills professors meet every week to discuss and plan these courses and students’ professionalism.

We plan to continue to include professionalism as a fundamental objective for these courses.

As all first year students are required to complete these courses, about 500 students have graduated from our program. Our current enrollment is 150 students, taught in seven sections.


Confidential Items:



Expanded Program Description (Optional):


Supporting Materials:

Course description and handbook August 2003

Participation/Professionalism Grading Rubric 02