Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ensuring Educational Integrity in Field Placement Courses

Design, Teach and Manage: Ensuring Educational Integrity in Field Placement Courses by Liz Ryan Cole and Nancy Maurer. 

Abstract: Field placements are becoming increasingly important as law schools respond to demands for educational reform along with demands from students, practitioners, clients and other constituents to graduate “practice ready” lawyers who understand the values of the profession. At the same time, decreasing enrollments, ballooning law student debt, and a weak economy are creating internal pressures to cut the costs of providing legal education. As law schools react to competing demands to increase experiential learning while cutting costs, the ABA has relaxed accreditation standards governing study outside of the classroom. The result is that those who design, teach and manage field placement courses are expected to do more with less. In many instances, full time field placement faculty are being replaced with instructors or administrators who have limited teaching experience and no job security. The lack of faculty status and job security makes it more difficult for those overseeing field placement experiences to participate completely in discussions of the proper role of these courses in legal education. We argue that it is precisely during these challenging times that law schools most need experienced faculty to be in charge of field placement programs, not only to design and teach these courses, but also to be part of faculty and administration discussion of law school mission, purpose, budget and curriculum. We describe how a faculty-designed and faculty-taught field placement course can allow law schools to offer robust experiential learning opportunities at reasonable cost.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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