Friday, December 14, 2012

New legal skills scholarship: "Collaborating With the Real World: Opportunities for Developing Skills and Values in Law Teaching."

This article is by Professor Charity Scott (Georgia State College of Law) and available at 9 Ind. Health L. Rev. 409 (2012).  From the introduction:

    Law professors know and teach the law. Law students, however, need to learn more than just the law. To be successful lawyers, they need to learn how to keep learning the law for the rest of their professional careers, which is a self-reflective skill that law professors generally do not teach in their classrooms. Law students also need to learn a broad range of practical interpersonal and behavioral skills that are essential for good counseling and representation of clients. In addition, they need to internalize habits, values, and attitudes about professional work that will sustain both the quality of their work and their satisfaction with their professional lives in the future.

Many law professors who teach doctrinal law classes assume that their students will get an introduction to these skills and attributes of good professional practice through a clinic or externship experience in law school, or else that their students will just figure it out as they go along in their careers, as perhaps the law professors themselves did after graduation. Traditionally, classroom law professors have focused on improving students' knowledge of the law, their cognitive skills in analyzing its application to new contexts, their ability to think quickly and argue orally in the Socratic classroom, and to a lesser extent, their skills in writing. Despite decades of calls for legal education reform, classroom law professors have not thought it their responsibility to offer opportunities for their students to learn the wide set of skills, values, and attributes that good lawyers exemplify.
As a result, law students have mostly learned how to be and think like law students. They have not learned how to be, think, and act like lawyers.
Even if this state of affairs in legal education worked satisfactorily for law school graduates in the past, it is not working well now in times of economic downturn, and it will not work well for the future given the changing global environment of law practice. Increasingly, clients are refusing to pay for young associates to learn these skills and values on the job, and employers are deciding to hire only lateral attorneys who have managed to learn them at someone else's billable expense.


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