June 12, 2006
Professional Reading: Teaching Legal Research and Writing with Actual Legal Work
Michael A. Milleman and Steven D. Schwinn, Teaching Legal Research and Writing with Actual Legal Work: Extending Clinical Education into the First Year, 12 Clinical L. Rev. 441 (2006). Westlaw
Abstract: In this article, the co-authors argue that legal research and writing (LRW) teachers should use actual legal work to generate assignments. They recommend that clinical and LRW teachers work together to design, co-teach, and evaluate such courses. They describe two experimental courses they developed together and co-taught to support and clarify their arguments.
They contend that actual legal work motivates students to learn the basic skills of research, analysis and writing, and thus helps to accomplish the primary goals of LRW courses. It also helps students to explore new dimensions of basic skills, including those related to the development and use of facts and the construction of legal arguments in response to indeterminate legal issues. Through actual legal work, they say, LRW teachers can achieve important secondary educational goals as well, including introducing students to a client-centered, problem-solving form of representation, professional responsibility issues (especially access-to-justice and pro bono issues), and critical analysis of law and justice systems.
Engaging first-year students in actual legal work can bring real clients into the classroom, demonstrate to students that they can help others (and that they like doing so), and thereby reinforce their idealism. The authors say these are good refinements in the culture of traditional first-year legal education. Their proposal also would help individuals and community organizations obtain legal assistance they need to prevent and resolve legal problems. A LRW professor and students can provide representation that otherwise would not be provided. In the longer term, they argue that engaging students in law school in legal work on behalf of poor and underrepresented people and groups will encourage a number of them to provide legal services to similar clients in the future.
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