Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Chair; Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Member; Frank R. Kemerer, PhD, Member


gender, impostor phenomenon, law school students, law professors, Leadership studies, pedagogical strategies, Socratic dialogue


Law schools compel students to think like lawyers by using intensive Socratic dialogue built around voluminous case readings. This method sometimes pushes students to feel overwhelmed, to lose self-confidence, and even to wonder whether law school was the right choice for them. To some extent, such outcomes are intended because the articulated goal of law school pedagogy is to tear law students down so they can be rebuilt to think like lawyers. Unfortunately, this demanding and competitive atmosphere prompts some law students to develop the impostor phenomenon (IP). The IP hampers students' leadership abilities because the students persistently feel like impostors undeserving of being in law school, despite compelling evidence to the contrary. Though studies of other graduate students (e.g., engineering and nursing) indicate a substantial number of them suffer from the IP, no previous research on law students exists. This study attempted to fill this research gap by administering an IP instrument to a convenience sample of approximately 1,000 law students. After identifying the occurrence of the IP among these students, multiple regression analysis then decomposed variation in the intensity of the IP as a function of personal demographic measures like sex, age, and race, as well as measures of the law school experience like GPA and clinical coursework. This study's finding of the IP in one third of the law students surveyed was similar to findings in other graduate programs. Among powerful predictors of the IP, increased procrastination, a higher year in school, being female, and taking clinical courses correlated with increased impostor feelings, while increased family support and LSAT scores correlated with decreased impostor feelings. The correlations between the IP and clinical courses and sex were particularly noteworthy. This research should benefit those in legal education, particularly law students, by increasing awareness of the IP. The significant occurrence of the IP might also encourage law professors to consider potential costs and presumed benefits of current pedagogical strategies. Likewise, student academic support programs might develop a better sense of the support some students require for success in law school and in leadership of the legal field upon graduation.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies