Monday, September 22, 2014

A Proposal for Reforming the 3L Curriculum

One consequence of the downturn in law school admissions and post-law school employment has been the blossoming of innovations in the law school curriculum. Professor R. Michael Cassidy presents his proposal in his article, "Reforming the Law School Curriculum from the Top Down" (forthcoming in volume 64 of the Journal of Legal Education).

Professor Cassidy proposes 3L capstone courses in particular fields taught by teams of faculty members and practitioners. The courses would focus on real-life problem solving. Here is the abstract: 

With growing consensus that legal education is in turmoil if not in crisis, law schools need to take advantage of industry upheaval to catalyze innovation in the way they train their students. Curriculum reform, long the “third rail” of faculty politics, is now essential if some law schools are going to survive the present tsunami of low enrollments and stagnant hiring. One cautiously optimistic note within this doomsday symphony is that law school deans are now in extremely strong bargaining positions with their faculties and boards of trustees with respect to curriculum innovation.

In this essay, the author proposes a pivotal reform to the third year curriculum involving team-taught “Advanced Legal Problem Solving” workshops in subject specific areas, and describes the precise structure, content and staffing of such capstone courses. He argues that such workshops would significantly enhance the preparation of law students for entry into the profession, and would create an efficient and cost-effective route for law schools to satisfy rigorous new ABA accreditation standards regarding experiential learning and outcomes assessment.

 You can find the full article on SSRN (here).

 Though I do not teach a capstone course, I do co-teach a Land Use Planning course with a prominent practitioner. The students and I learn a lot that we would never learn from a traditional case book.


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