Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Much Experiential Legal Education is Enough?

Karen Tokarz, Peggy Maisel, Bob Siebel and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez ask this question in a new article.  (Preview here)  Lopez writes, we suggest "that  about one third of the curriculum would be ideal.  We suggest the courses should be spread throughout the three years (we include legal research and writing as a “skills” course.)  We believe that this amount would capitalize on the legal knowledge and analytical skills they develop in the  traditional  law school classroom and would help students better understand the values and develop the skills they need to become successful lawyers.   Simulation courses  such as trial practice, moot courts, negotiation and counseling, alternative dispute resolution, etc would help students develop and perfect the technical skills and well designed hybrid courses, externships and clinics would help students integrate the skills, knowledge and values that will enable them to develop as competent and ethical lawyers."

I agree that this is about the right amount.  I would add two things.   First, all doctrinal classes should have a problem-solving element.   General learning scholarship has shown that students remember more and can manipulate knowledge better when they apply what they have learned to solve problems.  Second, I want to emphsize that law schools should add advanced skills courses beyond the traditional skills offerings.   Law schools could offer courses that combine doctrine and experiential approaches, such having a class that teaches environmental law and simultaneously goes through the steps in litigating an environmental law case.

Update: I am not the only one who believes that skills should be incorportaed into doctrinal courses.  This morning, Christine Chabot posted the following at Concurring Opinions:

"Historically, skills training was not part of the education students received in law school. Things have changed, of course, and recently many have emphasized the need for practice-ready law grads. Incorporating skills training in substantive courses offers one promising option for improving students’ education. I’m prepping Sales (UCC Article 2) for the fall, and the course seems to lend itself well to a more skills-oriented approach. I plan to use problem-solving exercises and assignments which will not only teach students the law governing sales of goods, but will also enhance their statutory and contractual interpretation, drafting, and client-counseling skills. I have extensive experience litigating contractual disputes, so I know these skills are essential for commercial litigators. And they seem equally important to transactional lawyers."

(Scott Fruehwald)


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