August 22, 2007
Spanning the Academic-Real World Divide to Prepare Competent Lawyers
What can law schools do to address the criticisms in the Carnegie Foundation's report on legal education, Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (2007)? That report found that law schools are not teaching students how to be competent lawyers. One suggestion: how about legal research and writing program components that support clinical and externship programs? Some background from articles deposited in SSRN:
- ABA Standard 305'S Guided Reflections: A Perfect Fit for Guided Fieldwork
- What Students Don't Know Will Hurt Them: A Frank View from the Field on How to Better Prepare Our Clinic and Externship Students
- The Clinical Divide: Overcoming Barriers to Collaboration Between Clinics and Legal Writing Programs
Anahid Gharakhanian ABA Standard 305'S Guided Reflections: A Perfect Fit for Guided Fieldwork (SSRN). Abstract:
The ABA recently introduced some flexibility in how law schools may structure field placement programs (i.e., externship programs).
Specifically, new ABA Standard 305(e)(7) provides that in addition to a seminar or tutorial, “other means of guided reflection” satisfy the academic component requirement for a field placement program. This article describes one successful method for meeting the revised ABA Standard through the use of contemporaneous online guided reflections. It does so by examining the experience of Southwestern Law School, which recently redesigned the academic component of its large externship program.
This article describes Southwestern's externship program before the new Standard 305(e)(7), and then details the program's redesign with the use of online guided reflections, noting its success and the delivery of a substantially better educational experience. The article first details how the new ABA Standard provided the impetus for Southwestern to reassess the nature of its large fieldwork-focused externship program. In that reassessment, Southwestern considered: (1) the role of externships in providing a well-rounded legal education; (2) the impact of generational considerations; and (3) the insights gained from different models of success in law school and on the job. After providing a detailed background to Southwestern's fieldwork-focused approach to externships, the article describes the flexibility and creativity that online guided reflections afford. This flexibility allowed Southwestern to emphasize fieldwork, while getting more out of the academic component without the restraints of form over substance. The author hopes that Southwestern's approach, detailed in this article, will serve as a productive model for crafting innovative and effective academic components for field placements.
Carolyn R. Young & Barbara A. Blanco, What Students Don't Know Will Hurt Them: A Frank View from the Field on How to Better Prepare Our Clinic and Externship Students (SSRN). Abstract:
This article investigates the areas in which law students are under-prepared for the externship and clinical experience as identified by those in the best position to know: their placement supervisors. Through surveys and interviews, the authors asked supervisors what qualities they hope to see in students, what abilities they want from students, and the level of competence for which they will settle. The article begins with an examination of the authors' own perceptions of student inexperience and the factual basis, if any, for the concern that law students need to be better prepared for their first field placements and clinics. Next, the authors describe the survey of nearly three dozen judges, law clerks, government agency and public interest attorneys with experience supervising students from schools across the county. Also discussed are the more detailed accounts offered by several supervisors who presented their opinions at the authors' Externship 3 conference presentation in March 2006. The authors analyze the results by type of skill (writing, research, office etiquette, etc.), as well as by type of placement (judicial, government and public interest). The article concludes with a discussion of the tools that the authors have developed to better prepare their students and their plans for future program improvements.
Sarah Schrup, The Clinical Divide: Overcoming Barriers to Collaboration Between Clinics and Legal Writing Programs (SSRN). Abstract:
Increased communication between legal research and writing (“LRW”) programs and clinical programs is desirable because it provides students with a seamless learning experience, enhances faculty teaching in both departments, and creates opportunities for collaboration that benefits a law-school community generally. But barriers presently exist that hinder collaboration. Specifically, barriers that impact collaboration and integrated learning between LRW and clinical programs stem from: (1) differences in the development of the two disciplines and the resultant differences in teaching methodologies; and (2) other practical barriers including physical separation, status issues, lack of communication, competing demands within the law school and the reality of how little collaboration presently occurs. With respect to the first barrier, which is the most deeply rooted and the most salient, the differences in the development of clinics versus LRW programs has created, on the clinical side an approach to teaching that is defined by progressive, client-centered and reflective learning and on the LRW side teaching methodologies guided by traditional, lawyer-centered, and forward-looking principles. Because these approaches are so different and because in practice clinicians and LRW faculty are not regularly communicating on these issues, faculty cannot provide seamless instruction to students. But clinical and LRW faculty can overcome these differences with increased communication and a conscientious commitment to incorporate principles of each other's teaching into their own pedagogy. The author encountered and addressed these very difficulties in the context of designing a hybrid LRW-clinical course at Northwestern University School of Law.
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