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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thinking it Through: A Reaction to Carnegie's "Practice Ready" Proclamation

Since the release of the Carnegie report, many of us here have been discussing our methods of incorporating "practice ready" skills into our classrooms and outcome measurement tools into our evaluation methods. Two authors recently posited that the focus on teaching practical actions may be trumping the more critical skill of thinking to the potential detriment of the legal profession. In their article Performance Isn’t Everything: The Importance of Conceptual Competence in Outcome Assessment of Experiential Learning, Stefan Krieger & Serge Martinez (at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1972414) scrutinize and reject the recommendations for outcomes and assessment in the area of experiential education, arguing that teaching law students to follow expert protocols, procedures, rules and checklists in lawyering practice situations fails to develop the more critical skill of reasoning, in opposition to a body of cognitive science and neuroscience research on the development of professional expertise. The authors argue that merely mimicking legal professionals actions minimizes the reasoning required to be an effective law practitioner.

It seems that most schools (all schools?) have received the Carnegie Report as an edict and scrambled to adjust teaching methods to accommodate the recommendations. Law school compliance may be  primarily due to the ABA intention to adopt many of the recommendations into guidelines (please correct me if I am in error). But have any schools looked deeper into the ideas of Carnegie's non-legal educators' recommendations and questioned the recommendation of a complete overhaul in law teaching methods? How "bad" was legal education B.C. (Before Carnegie), and why is there a dearth of resistance to a full-on bandwagon?

Posted by DBorman on February 22, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Permalink


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Great post and important questions!
I do think one complicated element of the "what has happened" questions is the timing of the Carnegie Report in relation to the so-called "crisis in legal education," which I believe is actually more of a crisis of the economy generally.
Although I believe the Carnegie Report preceded the crisis, I think there is a way in which the David Segal NY Times law school critique set of arguments has polarized things. In this narrative Carnegie is the solution to the "crisis" and the "scam" of law schools focused on too much theory and not enough practice.
I've always found it fascinating the way in which the Segal critique runs together the question of practice and cost. Law schools cost too much and teach too little practice. The problem, as I see it, is that high quality clinical education aimed at practice skills is extremely expensive to provide on a per-student basis, such that more investments in this regard might actually increase and not decrease the cost of law schools, but that is a matter for another day...
Again, great post and questions...

Posted by: I. Glenn Cohen | Feb 22, 2012 10:35:40 AM

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