Fostering Ethical Professional Identity in Tax: Using the Traditional Tax Classroom

Field, Heather M.

Thus, the goal of this article is to provide strategies for integrating professional identity development exercises into the traditional tax classroom.[17] In doing so, this article advances our understanding of how to help students develop ethical professional identity, particularly for those students interested in pursuing a career in tax.[18] And this article helps to answer the call for “plug and play” curriculum[19] that faculty can use to advance the student learning objective of teaching ethical professional identity formation.[20] In addition, given that professional identity development is equally important for practicing tax lawyers, they can use this article as a self-study tool, and the exercises herein can be used for CLE workshops.[21]

Part II of this article provides background by elaborating on the concept of “professional identity” and explaining why this is an important part of legal education. Part III then argues for incorporating professional identity pedagogy into a specific context—the traditional tax classroom.

Part IV provides an exercise that can be used in any upper-division tax course to integrate professional identity building into the traditional tax classroom; a reader primarily interested in the specific exercises might want to skip directly to this part. Part V identifies several challenges with integrating a professional identity module into the tax classroom and discusses variations and alternatives to help professors overcome or mitigate these challenges. This enables tax professors to tailor the experience to their goals and their students’ needs.

Part VI concludes. Ultimately, the goal of this article is to try to empower tax faculty to help students reflect seriously on who they are and who they want to be as soon-to-be lawyers in the tax profession.


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Columbia Journal of Tax Law

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November 20, 2017