Saturday, August 30, 2014

Using in-class "microlawyering" to give students experiential training in trusts and estates practice

This is a new "legal skills" article by Professor Alyssa Dirusso (Cumberland) called Microlawyering and Simulations in Estates and Trusts Courses and can be found at  58 St. Louis U. L.J. 739 (2014).  From the introduction:

If practice makes perfect, law school is not yet a perfect experience for budding trusts and estates lawyers. The legal curriculum needs to include significant opportunities for students to learn through doing. When legal instruction is limited to purely academic study, students are deprived of important professional training.  As recognized in many other professional schools, practice presents an invaluable opportunity for learning the reasoning necessary to be competent in the field.  The benefits of integrating practice into legal education have been documented through psychological study. Through these studies, it was recognized that when comparing novice and experts, experts had developed “well-rehearsed procedures, or ‘schemas,’ for thinking and acting,” which allow experts to quickly apply this knowledge to current situations in a manner not developed in novice.  The studies also revealed that the knowledge of experts is “conditioned, or related to contexts.”  This evidence supports the proposition that purely academic legal education is merely a foundation for expertise, which can be developed only through the actual practice.  An ideal exposure to trusts and estates practice is gained through microlawyering--a term I use to mean small-scale, real legal experiences. The term borrows from the concept of microlending. In microlending, budding entrepreneurs who need small amounts of capital to launch new enterprises receive modest loans from microfinancing institutions, empowering business owners to take action when traditional lending structures would not offer the opportunity to proceed.  Although the investment is small, the impact can be substantial.  So too in the classroom can enabling small-scale experience yield large-scale results.


Although clinics and externships can provide microlawyering opportunities, not all law schools have the resources to offer experiences in trusts and estates to significant numbers of students. Fortunately, it is also possible to provide microlawyering experiences to law students in traditional doctrinal courses as well as smaller skills classes. In this Article, I will describe two such activities and reflect upon the challenges microlawyering presents in these contexts.


In addition to microlawyering, simulations offer students the opportunity to develop skills in a practice-like context. Unbound by the restrictions of real legal practice, simulations are remarkably flexible and well-suited to a variety of classes. Like microlawyering, simulations illustrate the importance of learning to do and not just to think. They can be critical in not only providing experience and feedback in a safe setting, but in developing confidence in nascent lawyers. 


. . . .


| Permalink


Post a comment