Monday, April 26, 2010

The future of legal education according to HLS Dean Martha Minow (and what it may mean for LW Profs)

Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow recently addressed the HLS community in a speech titled "The Past, Present, and Future of Legal Education" during which she described the reforms presently contemplated by many legal educators as being as historically significant to the training of lawyers as the first classroom use of case method more than 140 years ago.  

Relevant to legal writing profs, Dean Minow made the following observations:

  • Legal education hasn't changed much in the past 100 years.  Indeed, a 1914 Carnegie Report on the state of legal education identified many of the same problems raised by the 2007 Carnegie Report including the over-reliance on the case method approach and need for more practical training.
  • The largest change in law schools during the past 30 years is the rise of clinical education. Clinics help bridge theory and practice, make parts of legal education closer to a teaching hospital, and clinics also elevated attention to poverty, racial and gender discrimination, and access to justice. They . . . involve a much higher devotion of instructional resources than the conventional classroom.
  • [At present L]egal education –except for clinical work--[seems] like the traditional first two years
    of medical school—lots of knowledge, little direct work in the field. Schools across the
    country incorporated policy studies, social science and the administrative state, but as
    add-ons, not altering the basic map of the legal world which still started with common law, focused on courts, and obscured the multiple pathways through law school and into
    careers that students actually want to pursue. . . .  We contrasted the lack of change in legal education for more than 100 years with changes in medical, business, engineering, and policy education. We learned especially from transformations in medical education, led by Harvard Medical School, which radically reduced time devoted to lectures in favor of hands-on problem-solving, decision making, and engagement of students in collaborations, taking responsibility for their own learning.

    Dean Minow's remarks offer a wonderful reflection on this key moment in time regarding the state of legal education.  I think you'll enjoy the full version of her remarks here and a synopsis here.

    Hat tip to Above the Law.

    I am the scholarship dude.



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    Dean Minow's school uses graduate fellows to teach LRW and I don't think they have a single upper-level legal writing offering (and if they have any, it can't be more than a few). If Dean Minow is sincere about the importance of skills education, I hope she'll change their curriculum and approach to LRW

    Posted by: Cantabrigian | Apr 27, 2010 8:40:54 AM

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