October 12, 2008
Primer Series on Clinical Legal Education: First Installment
In assisting the re-launching of the Clinical Law Prof Blog, I thought it might be useful, particularly for newer clinicians, to highlight Clinical Legal Education scholarship and reports. When I started down the Clinical Legal Education path, I had the good fortune of doing so at the University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC-DCSL). Just starting out, I was surprised to learn that the ABA did not have uniform standards for clinical programs, so clinics across the country were not required to offer a set amount of credit hours per clinic, and each credit hour awarded was not related to a fixed amount of student hours worked each week.
As a newer clinician, I find Clinical Legal Education scholarship and reports are invaluable to my growth as a teacher and as a lawyer. When I was on the AALS market, I interviewed for doctrinal and clinical positions. I often found myself thinking it would be wonderful to have the opportunity to teach in both disciplines within the same institution. Colleagues who do so unsurprisingly state their clinical teaching informs and positively influences their doctrinal teaching, and vice versa. I have also been privy to doctrinal faculty singing the praises of teaching by declaring, “It’s so much better than the practice of law.” I sing the praises of teaching because Clinical Legal Education allows me to continue to practice law and to work in the public interest. At UDC-DCSL, I was in the classroom four hours each week, teaching in the tax clinic seminar where we examined tax law, and tax practice and procedure through case law, the Code, the IRS, and in turn discussed how tax policy affected our clients. It was a wonderful integration of theory and practice.
So, the first installment in this Primer Series is the lauded 2007 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching report, entitled Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law. A summary of the findings is available in PDF format and a copy of the report may be purchased for $40.
The report hones in on five key observations:
1. Law School Provides Rapid Socialization into the Standards of Legal Thinking
2. Law Schools Rely Heavily on One Way of Teaching to Accomplish the Socialization Process
3. The Case-Dialogue Method of Teaching Has Valuable Strengths but Also Unintended Consequences
4. Assessment of Student Learning Remains Underdeveloped
5. Legal Education Approaches Improvement Incrementally, Not Comprehensively.
The report also provides a list of recommendations in the section entitled “Toward a More Integrated Model: a Historic Opportunity to Advance Legal Education” The report recommends law schools should:
1. Offer an Integrated Curriculum
2. Join “Lawyering,” Professionalism and Legal Analysis from the Start
3. Make Better Use of the Second and Third Years of Law School
4. Support Faculty to Work Across the Curriculum
5. Design the Program so that Students—and Faculty—Weave Together Disparate Kinds of Knowledge and Skill
6. Recognize a Common Purpose
7. Work Together, Within and Across Institutions.