Saturday, February 1, 2014

Professor Robert Kuehn on the Experiential Education Proposal

Professor Robert Kuehn has posted one of the strongest arguments in favor of adoption of the proposal to require 15 credit hours of experiential education in law schools.  (here)

He first shows why experiential education should be required.  He asserts that, "legal education lags far behind the pre-licensing education requirements of other professions, which require one quarter to over one half of a student’s education in clinical courses; unlike law, those other professions do not leave it up to the school or student to decide what minimum amount of practice-based education is needed in order to enter the profession."

Professor Kuehn also demonstrates that there is broad support for experiential education within the legal profession: "The ABA’s House of Delegates urged the Section in a 2011 resolution ‘to implement curricular programs intended to develop practice ready lawyers including, but not limited to enhanced capstone and clinical courses that include client meetings and court appearances.’"

He next shows that recent graduates strongly support more experiential education.  For example, "the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division passed a unanimous resolution in August 2013 calling on the Section to require at least one academic grading period of practical legal skills clinical experiences or classes as a graduation requirement, noting that ‘a J.D. degree alone does not make a lawyer.’"  Similarly, "Surveys of recent law graduates show the need to require much, much more professional skills training, including clinical coursework." Finally, "In a 2013 Kaplan Bar Review Survey, 97% of 2013 law graduates favored a law school model that incorporates clinical experience in the third year and 87% agreed that the legal education system needs ‘to undergo significant changes to better prepare future attorneys for the changing employment landscape and legal profession.’"  Kuehn's evidence of the opinion of young lawyers on experiential education looks like a mandate to me.

His other important argument is that experiential education, including clinical education, does not add to tuition costs.  Based on an extensive study he previously published, Kuehn declares,"there is no statistically significant relationship between the availability of experiential education courses for students and the tuition they pay." He includes several power point slides in support of this argument and cites to his article on the subject.

Professor Kuehn concludes, "As I found from examining the practice-based and clinical education requirements of other professional schools, a mere increase from one course in professional skills to two courses (the practical effect of raising the Standard to 6 credits) would still leave legal education far behind. For the ABA and law schools to fulfill their responsibility to ensure a legal education that adequately prepares students for the practice of law, all J.D. students as a condition of graduation should be required to satisfactorily complete at least 15 credit hours of practice-based, experiential coursework, including a law clinic or externship course. How schools choose to provide those 15 credits and a clinical experience is up to the individual schools. But, the ABA and law schools can no longer ignore the loud calls from the practicing bar for dramatic change and the clear need of graduating students for significantly more practice-based coursework, including at least one real-life practice experience."

(Scott Fruehwald)

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