Thursday, July 11, 2013

Debate on CLEA Proposal and Clinical Courses

There is a debate going on on the PrawfsBlawg concerning clinical education and CLEA's proposal to require 15 hours of experiential courses in the second and third years.  A major part of the debate involves the cost of the proposal.

My first question is, if law schools can afford to offer seminars limited to 10 or 15 students, why can't they afford to offer clinics and other experiential courses?  If it costs a law school $100,000 for every faculty article (as Richard Neumann wrote a couple of years ago), why can't law schools use some of this money to better educate our students?  How can some law schools, like Washington & Lee, UC-Irvine, and CUNY, have significant experiential programs but still charge competitive tuition?  Why can't professors who make $150,000 to 200,000 a year teach experiential courses?

Please note tha CLEA supported the cost of its proposal here.

Bob Kuehn, author of the data behind the CLEA proposal writes,

""First, the 15 credit proposal can be met in a variety of ways, including (to the extent that cost alone is an issue) very cheap simulations (read as likely taught by adjuncts), relatively cheap externships (but not the 80 students/prof suggested by one commentator; anything above 25 is problematic, and even that number troubles some externship faculty), and more expensive clinics.

Second, as for the mandatory clinic/externship requirement, again that can be met through a combination of approaches and, as you'll see the data shows, 139 schools already have sufficient capacity, without adding another clinical course or faculty member, to meet that requirement.

Finally, the issue should be the cost effectiveness of various approaches, not cost. If cost were the only issue, we'd have no seminars or likely any classes below 25 or 30 and cut out lots of other activities that students pay for (scholarship by faculty?). Law schools shouldn't be in the business of trying to make money off class size but instead trying to figure out what students need to learn to effectively practice law and the best means to achieve that goal. Sadly, that debate is missing from the blog comments."

Finally, Gumby makes the following argument in the comments: "A mandatory minimum number of clinical credit hours will primarily benefit one group and one group only: incumbent clinical faculty members. Hopefully the ABA and AALS will recognize this and decline to mandate minimum clinical instruction (unless they are also planning to print the money needed to pay for it)."  Wrong! It would benefit the students.  (And the public who would have better educated lawyers)  See my earlier post here.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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