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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The new experiential-learning requirement

I gather, from Brian Leiter and Paul Caron that the ABA Council of the Section on Legal Education has voted to (among other things) require six (not fifteen) credits of experiential learning of all students.  Mary Lynch calls this a "small step" but a step in "the right direction."  (My own view, for what it's worth, is closer to Brian's.)  Here (thanks to Prof. Lynch) is the language of the relevant new standard:

“one or more experiential course(s) totaling at least six credit hours. An experiential course must be a simulation course, a law clinic, or a field placement. To satisfy this requirement, a course must be primarily experiential in nature and must:

(i) integrate doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics, and engage students in
performance of one or more of the professional skills identified in Standard

(ii) develop the concepts underlying the professional skills being taught;

(iii) provide multiple opportunities for performance; and

(iv) provide opportunities for self-evaluation.”

Whatever we think of the merits of this new requirement, it appears that most law schools will have to make some changes -- in some cases, adding and staffing new experiential courses and in others, perhaps, simply changing their graduation requirements -- to comply with it.  

Are there new, creative, "outside the box" things that schools and faculties might try?  The standard is not entirely open-ended, of course:  An experiential course must be "a simulation course, a law clinic, or a field placement."  Still, this would seem to leave enough room to create offerings that depart from, even as they build on, the experiential offerings and models with which we're most familiar:  direct-service clinics, simulated negotiations, mock-trial and moot-court courses, externships in local (or not-local) prosecutors' and public defenders' offices, etc.  Brian has reminded readers that "no law school in the United States is actually equipped to offering 'experiential' learning adequate to the full range of careers lawyers pursue" so it would seem that coming into compliance, in a way that actually helps our students and does not simply protect schools' accreditation, could be a challenge.  What do you think most law schools will do, given the new requirement?  What could they -- we -- do?

Posted by Rick Garnett on March 18, 2014 at 09:09 AM in Life of Law Schools, Rick Garnett, Teaching Law | Permalink


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No need to reinvent the wheel. Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers has many examples of experiential/simulation courses on their website at http://educatingtomorrowslawyers.du.edu/course-portfolios/. Examples include Ad Law, Evidence, International Tax, Negotiations, Health Law, White Collar Crime, Discovery, and Family Law.

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Mar 18, 2014 12:51:19 PM

Leiter's commentary reflects the need for a 2-tiered system. Of course, if you are going to be considered for a federal clerkship or an elite Biglaw position, you should take more theoretical, intellectual courses. But this type of learning only benefits the best of the best. Probably the Top 15 schools, maybe the top 10% of the next 25 schools, then the top 5% of everyone else.

This means that the intellectual model for law school benefits hardly anyone. The vast majority of all law students waste time with every additional academic course after the second year. I think experiential learning should be required for these lower-tiered students. Maybe even cut law school for these students down to 2 years: 1.5 years of black letter learning; .5 years of apprenticeship.

Posted by: Abel | Mar 18, 2014 9:46:20 AM

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