Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Gerald P. Lopez (UCLA), Transform—Don’t Just Tinker With—Legal Education

I've been saying this for over ten years:

Gerald P. Lopez (UCLA), Transform—Don’t Just Tinker With—Legal Education, (Part I)

Gerald P. Lopez (UCLA), Transform—Don’t Just Tinker With—Legal Education (Part II)

"In this two-part article, Part I evaluates how the past decade’s “transformation” of legal education amounts so far to just so much time-honored tinkering. Over the past ten years, most schools changed very little, and the small number that changed a fair amount (overwhelmingly in the second and third years) borrowed directly from what other law schools have been doing for decades. . . .  Part I aspires to present in something like realistic form the institutional, material, and ideological forces we all encounter and too often reproduce. What makes the past decade’s near-ritualistic experience all the more regrettable is that we have available an alternative vision of legal education ready now for a full roll-out. . . .  Part II will sketch the radically different assumptions, methods, and aspirations that define how this vision contrasts with the at best status-quo-plus version of legal education strongly internalized and widely practiced. . . .  Part II of this two-part article presents the Alternative Vision of legal education discernible in the best of clinical legal education—not as a supplement to the at-best-status-quo-plus model that still dominates legal education, but as a complete substitute ready now for a full roll-out. . . .  Part II sketches the radically different assumptions, methods, and aspirations at the heart of the Alternative Vision, explains why we should ban the Socratic case method and scrupulously scrutinize all familiar learning formats, and measures all of us involved in legal education by how well suited we are (or could become) to the teaching and learning a transformed legal education demands."  (emphasis added)

This is an excellent article with many good ideas.  However, I don't think law schools should completely throw out the traditional methods of legal education.  The Socratic method is still valuable as one tool to help students satisfy Bloom's Taxonomy.  Let's combine Professor Lopez's suggestions with a revamped first year that combines the method with problem-solving, metacognitive training, and frequent formative assessment.  We need to transform legal education, but that doesn't mean we have to change things that work (in proper quantities).

(Scott Fruehwald)

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