Looking back and looking forward on learning in professionalism

AuthorThe Honourable Stephen T. Goudge
g September 2009
Lkin back an lkin ar n
learnin in essinalis
suspect we all remember the day when we rst told our family
and friends that we were going to law school. Undoubtedly, some of
us were met by the most recent lawyer joke– something about lawyers
and rats, or lawyers and sharks or lawyers and light bulbs. But under-
neath, there was almost always a quiet admiration and pride that we had
decided to become a part of something both important and valued– the
legal profession.
We did not consider it to be a cult, although undoubtedly it had its
ceremonies and rituals and thought of itself as an “in group.” Nor did it
really seem to be a culture, although it clearly had its distinctive customs
and outlooks, and it would give us the label by which we would be iden-
tied from then on: lawyers. Rather, it was a profession– although we
had only the vaguest understanding of what that meant.
Little did we know then that most of us would inevitably spend time
exploring this question, either explicitly or implicitly, either consciously
or subconsciously, attempting to answer in one way or another what it
means for a lawyer to say that he or she is a member of a profession.
The ongoing quest for how best to live one’s professional life as a lawyer
necessarily lasts a lifetime. It is inevitably a journey of lifelong learning.
Lawyers love– indeed, are addicted to – denitions, and profession-
alism is a slippery term. Many alternatives can be conceived. Let me
describe just several.

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