Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fundamental Skills

Revisiting the MacCrate Report

In 1992, an American Bar Association task force headed by Robert MacCrate issued a report, Legal Education and Professional Development: An Educational Continuum.  The "MacCrate Report" identified fundamental skills and values essential for competent lawyering - and, of course, had a very significant impact on the future of the curricula of all ABA approved law schools.

Maccrate_1 "...  American law schools cannot reasonably be expected to shoulder the task of converting ... students into full-fledged lawyers licensed to handle legal matters. ... a gap develops between the expectation and the reality ... . The lament of the practicing bar is a steady refrain: 'They can't draft a contract, they can't write, they've never seen a summons, the professors have never been inside a courtroom.' Law schools offer the traditional responses: 'We teach them how to think, we're not trade schools, we're centers of scholarship and learning, practice is best taught by practitioners.' 

* * *
"Early in its deliberations this Task Force concluded that it was not possible to consider how to 'bridge' or 'narrow' the alleged 'gap' between law schools and the practicing bar without first identifying the fundamental skills and values that every lawyer should acquire before assuming responsibility for the handling of a legal matter." (Quoting from the ABA web page summarizing the Report.)

The ABA summary continues, "The Statement of Skills and Values can serve as an aid to law students in preparing for practice. ... many law students are passive consumers of legal education: They lack an adequate understanding of the requirements for competent practice, the process by which a new member of the profession prepares for practice and attains competence, and the role that law schools play in that process. If the Statement of Skills and Values is distributed to all law students at the time they enter law school, students will begin their legal education with a clearer sense of the importance of acquiring skills and values in the course of professional development."

Not a bad idea.  (editorial comment)

What are these skills (and values)?  Click here for the list of ten skills (with many sub-categories ... you may need to scroll down to Chapter 5, section B).

Query: Aren't skills 1 through 5, and skill 9, those we can/should/do address in our Academic Support Programs?  Without these tools, skills, capabilities (call them what you will), lawyers face difficulties functioning as lawyers.  But without these same capabilities, law students simply cannot function at their highest "personal best" levels while in law school.

What do we teach in our Academic Support Programs?  I submit that we help law students morph into lawyers.  And we do so by helping them understand that law school truly is a preparation for the professional practice of law, but not in the way so many students think it is when they fill out their law school applications.  We do so by encouraging them to practice the fundamental lawyering "meta-skills." 

Doctrinal professors encourage the learning and use of doctrine; Academic Support professionals encourage the learning and use of lawyering skills.  (djt)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2005/06/fundamental_ski.html

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