September 28, 2005
Can the Paralysis of Legal Education be Overcome?
Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) is on a mission, namely to change the way law schools educate their students because they are not adequately preparing most students for practice. (As a former law firm librarian, I have to agree.) This mission is reflected in the Association's Draft of Best Practices for Legal Education (revised draft dated Aug 31, 2005); Executive Summary and Key Recommendations
What needs to be changed? Overvaluing scholarship, and changing the teaching methods of law profs.
The core of the problem is that “[l]aw professors not only have no incentive to change their teaching methods, they have no incentive to change at all.” Most law schools are faculty-centered, not student-centered, and the law faculties control what they teach and how they teach it. Law teachers in the United States are reasonably well paid, have relatively light teaching loads (9 to 12 credit hours per semester), have little contact with students outside of class, grade on the basis of one final exam at the end of the semester (an exam that individual teachers prepare and grade with no oversight), and have their summers off, often with stipends to write law review articles. There is very little accountability, especially after a law teacher receives tenure (typically in the sixth year of teaching). There are very few incentives to engage in curricular innovations or to develop excellent teaching skills. (citation omitted)
Bull's eye! Shrug. So what...
UPDATE: See also A Practical Manifesto for Legal Education: Law schools are professional schools, so let's teach these students something by Stephen J. Friedman, Dean and Professor of Law at Pace University Law School. (Published in Legal Times)
A year ago, I became dean of Pace Law School after a career in law practice, government and corporate life. What I found throughout legal education surprised me. From the point of view of a practicing lawyer, legal education has not evolved to meet the demands of a rapidly changing profession.
Hat tip to Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog for the tip.
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