Friday, August 28, 2015
Alex Scherr’s thoughtful piece this week on what an externship should be struck home for me, and in an internal way. I can’t wait for Part II. As a clinician I am really proud of what I do. We all are, or we wouldn’t keep at it. But I also face an internal struggle at times, a struggle of how to advocate for and expand experiential learning through law clinics and/or externships, whatever they may be.
I am a traditional clinician, for the most part. By this I mean that I teach in and direct a live-client clinic where I enroll up to eight to twelve students a semester and supervise them on cases. That’s a pretty standard way of doing it. While that may be the case, I also value my creativity to tinker with that established model, mainly so that I can do more subject-wise, project-wise, and expand the number of students in my clinic. My tinkering has involved, for example, out-sourcing some supervision when appropriate by volunteer supervising attorneys or community partner attorneys, and relying more on technology projects (instead of cases) for the development of pro se resource projects and developing student learning.
My overall goal is simple – I want to expand the number and type of experiential learning opportunities so that as many students as is practical get a valuable and meaningful experience. The ABA implicitly with the new requirement for six hours of experiential learning feels the same. My struggle is this – how do I as a clinician advocate for that expansion? Is it only through the development of law school clinics, or can I also advocate for externships? By advocating for externships am I turning my back on law clinics? By only advocating for traditional law clinics, am I turning my back on viable and meaningful externship opportunities for law students? How do we handle situations when there are really great externships that exist – especially when they seem to duplicate some of the clinical work that we do? Do we keep doing that work? Are we worried that students might choose the externships over us because of the different ABA standards and the expectations involved? What can we do when externship-type offerings are being relied on as cheaper equivalent alternatives to what we do?
I know that there are substantive differences between clinics and externships, not only in how we teach and manage them but also because of what the ABA requires. Yet as a group, how do we handle this as clinicians? What do you personally do? Does anyone else face the same struggle?