Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Teaching Foundational Lawyering Skills to First-Year Students

Teaching Foundational Lawyering Skills to First-Year Students by Stefano Moscato.

Stefano Moscato has recently posted an excellent article to SSRN in which he advocates teaching foundational clinical skills in the first year of law school.  He writes, 'That foundation should include an introduction to the following: fact-gathering, theory development and inferential reasoning, basic questioning techniques, obtaining chronologies, and T-funnel questioning." "Students' ability to transfer what they learn in the classroom to other contexts best occurs when students have repeated opportunities to practice those skills over time and in different and increasingly more complex settings, and where they receive meaningful feedback on their performance (including self-evaluation)."

I have been advocating for something similar for foundational cognitive skills for several years; start these skills at the beginning of law school.  Research in general education scholarship has demonstrated that teachers need to start with the cognitive basics.  For law students, this includes the various types of legal reasoning--rule-based reasoning, analogical reasoning, synthesizing rules, distinguishing cases, and policy-based reasoning, simple statutory analysis, reading legal texts critically, and basic problem solving.  (here)

These skills could be taught across the first-year curriculum, or a separate class could be devoted to them that could also include Moscato's foundational clinical skills.  In either case, a better beginning will produce better lawyers.


(Scott Fruehwald)

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