Sunday, July 29, 2012
One of the Carnegie Report's three apprenticeships is the "apprenticeship of identity and purpose," which "introduces students to the purposes and attitudes that are guided by the values for which the professional community is responsible." This apprenticeship involves more than teaching students the rules of legal ethics. It is intended to inculcate law students with the characteristics of professional identity. In other words, law schools should teach students what it is like to be a lawyer, including their ethical duties to their clients, the courts, and the public.
David Thomson has been one of the leaders in emphasizing a "role in our pedagogy for the intentional formation of professional identity in our students." He has a post on the subject at his blog here. He labels his appoach the “Guidance Sequence for Formation of Professional Identity (GSFPI).” This "sequence has four essential components. 1) An exercise or a writing assignment that sets up an ethical dilemma as it appears in practice; 2) An identification by the student of the ethical quandary raised in completing the assignment; 3) An expression by the student of the ethical issue and their reflection on their own decisions about how they decided to resolve the dilemma; and 4) Some form of feedback and response from the professor about the decisions and choices the student made." He adds,
"In the Discovery class that I teach, every discovery document the students prepare offer opportunities for identification of ethical issues, and the memos that accompany each assignment specifically ask the student to explain the choices they made and reflect on how and why they made those decisions. In the final step of the sequence, I provide margin feedback on their memos, and one of the criteria in the grading rubric on each assignment addresses the accuracy and quality of the identification of the ethical issue, and the depth and clarity of the reflection."
Professional identity is something that all law schools must instill in their students. We can no longer sit around and ignore the professional failings of many of those in the legal profession. Professor Thomson's approach is a significant method of dealing with this need.
This article is by Professor Colleen Shanahan (Georgetown) and available at 18 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol'y 401 (2011) and SSRN here. From the abstract:
The combination of current economic conditions and recent changes in the United States’ welfare system makes representation of unemployment insurance claimants by clinic students a timely learning opportunity. While unemployment insurance claimants often share similarities with student attorneys, they are unable to access justice as easily as student attorneys, and as a result, face the risk of severe poverty. Clinical representation of unemployment claimants is a rich opportunity for students to experience making a difference for a client, and to understand the issues of poverty and justice that these clients experience along the way. These cases reveal that larger lessons of justice can come from cases that are not classic poverty law representations, but are nonetheless tangible, personalized, and valuable sources of learning about justice and the poor.
Colleges (and law schools) are often accused of giving students explanations of financial aid that are confusing and hard to compare with other offers. Now the Department of Education has released a standardized disclosure form, called a "Financial Aid Shopping Sheet” that would disclose all true costs of attendance.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is lukewarm on the template, argue for flexibility rather than a standardized template. However, one suspects that for most schools, a standard form is in the students’ best interests.
A California state court has denied demurrers by Golden Gate University and the University of San Francisco law schools in two of the consumer fraud actions brought by disgruntled alumni. For those keeping score, the law schools have won two motions to dismiss (NYLS and Cooley) and lost three. These two cases, along with the one against Thomas Jefferson, will now proceed to discover. You can find the orders in these cases here and here.