Sunday, March 18, 2018

A book review of "Learning from Practice: A Text for Experiential Legal Education"

This is a book review by Professor Lisa Radtke Bliss (Georgia State) of "Learning from Practice: A Text for Experiential Legal Education" (Leah Wortham, Alexander Scherr, Nancy Maurer, and Susan l. Brooks, eds., West Academic Pub. 3d ed. 2016), published at 67 J. Legal Educ. 338 (2017) and available here. From the intro:

Experiential education is indisputably an essential part of the law school curriculum. This is so thanks to a long history of clinical legal education and scholarship of clinical pedagogy, and to a continually growing number of publications, reports, studies, and standards that emphasize the importance of developing professional competencies and skills to prepare students for success in the legal profession. Experiential education includes law clinics, externships, simulations, and courses that may have combined characteristics of these three major types. With the rise of experiential education, scholars have published ideas about how best to conceptualize, deliver, and integrate experiential education into the curriculum. Among the range of different experiential offerings, externships have undergone significant growth and development. At the same time, scholarship about integrating professional identity formation as part of preparing students for practice has proliferated. The formation of professional identity has long been an integral part of clinical legal education through students' exploration of what it means to inhabit the role of lawyer in context.


The third edition of Learning from Practice: A Text for Experiential Legal Education brings together these two goals of contemporary legal education and provides a comprehensive, student-centered collection of reading, exercises, and questions designed to promote student reflection. While the book begins with an introduction to students in an externship, and the book in general is designed as a resource to accompany student learning in the externship context, the editors understood the third edition might also have broader application, hence the editors' inclusion of the subtitle, “A Text for Experiential Legal Education.” The editors recognized that given the expansion of different forms of experiential education, and changes in the delivery of legal services, the concepts and topics addressed in the book could serve as a resource for multiple types of courses and experiences, particularly those courses that involve some form of real legal practice.


The editors identify and support their confidence in “well-designed and carefully delivered externship courses,” and this thoughtful book provides the resources necessary to provide an excellent externship seminar. The book captures and highlights the richness of experience that comes from exploring the world of practice through field placements. It provides concrete tools, focused on reflection, to help students make meaning of those experiences.


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