Saturday, July 18, 2009
At the ALWD Conference taking place this weekend at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Maria Crist (Dayton) is presenting on experiential learning. The components of experiential learning are that learner are willing to be actively involved, able to reflect on the experience, possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize their experience, and possess decision-making and problem-solving skills to use the new ideas they've gained (David Kolb, 2001). Maria reminded the group of the three big influences in legal education: the MacCrate Report (1992) (skills and values); Best Practices (2007) (context-based); Carnegie (2007) (apprenticeships: analytical, practical, and ethical). Carnegie concepts are what’s being picked up by the practicing bar.
Carnegie recommendations to law schools include the following:
- Offer an “integrated curriculum”: curriculum should look at doctrine; introduce facets of practice; explore professional identity
- Join “lawyering,” professionalism, and legal analysis “from the start” (usually interpreted as during the first year)
- Make better use of the 2d and 3d years of law school: more externships, developing areas of specialization
- Support faculty to work across the curriculum (“doctrinal faculty should go slumming in the skills area”)
- Design program so that students and faculty “weave together disparate kinds of knowledge and skill”
- Recognize a common purpose and work together, within and across institutions
Responses to a recent AmLaw Daily post by Paul Lippe reveal the views of the practicing bar about curricular reform. Practitioners suggest things such as:
- Accelerated curriculum: one year of case method; one year clinic; a year of externship
- More practice orientation in teaching (including greater use of adjunct faculty)
- Better use of technology to connects, practitioners, clients
- A more empirical approach to practice, deeper inquiry
- Moving back to mission-centered management
- Lifetime of orientation for skills development for students and alums
Professor Crist and participants explored several ideas, some for the first-year curriculum, others for upper-level courses. First-years will benefit from seeing a context for the new skill sets they are learning. For example, in the first year, have students investigate, gather facts; set up a live-client interview; following the open memo, bring in a mediator to lead students in mediation of parties’ positions; create more realistic simulations and role play: using “case files” and actors; provide opportunities for students to analyze and reflect on their performance; develop more collaborations with the practicing bar (e.g., TWEN guest); coordinate with legal-aid groups to provide legal research (e.g., gathering info for manuals, pamphlets; updating existing manuals); explore ways to work with in-house clinics; take field trips to the courthouse (with preparatory and/or follow-up activities, so that students will not just be passive observers).
Ideas for expanding experiential learning in the upper-level curriculum include encouragement of participation in externships and clinics; monitoring practitioners' subject-area blogs for current hot-button issues and practitioners to partner with; incorporating focused research and writing tasks: e.g., the e-mail request (a quick assignment; “the partner wants an e-mail bulletin for the client, something we can put on our website, new developments in the law of X”).