A Fresh Look at Legal Education

A network of 10 law schools has launched an ambitious project aimed at improving how law schools operate, ranging from changes in curricula to providing more practical, real-world training for law students.

Several reports and discussions this year have pointed out the challenges law schools face in educating and preparing students to become lawyers, including a report issued earlier this year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The California-based organization and Stanford Law School have taken the lead by forming a network of 10 law schools to tackle these issues. “We’re hoping to create a significant catalyst for rethinking the idea of legal education for this millennium,” said Lawrence Marshall, associate dean for public service and clinical education at Stanford Law School, who is spearheading the project.

Lisa Kloppenberg, dean of University of Dayton School of Law in Dayton, Ohio, which is among the participating schools, said, “I hope that this will give momentum to real change in law schools.” Edward Rubin, dean of Vanderbilt University Law School, which will take part in the project, said one of the things he’d like to discuss is how programs can do a better job of advancing students from year to year so that the third year looks different from the previous two and the engagement of third-year students improves. Michelle Anderson, dean of City University of New York School of Law, said one of the areas that needs improvement is how law schools handle the relationship between theory and practice. “I’m most concerned with the assumption of the professional role of an attorney and the way that much of legal education does not talk about and teach the skills of what it means to be wielding the power of being a lawyer,” she said. Details of the project have not been worked out. The agenda will not be set until the first meeting is held in Stanford, Calif., in December, Marshall said.

Other schools participating in the project are: Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, University of New Mexico School of Law, New York University School of Law and Southwestern University School of Law.

Source: The National Law Journal, Vesna Jaksic, staff reporter, October 29, 2007

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching website at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/programs/index.asp?key=1819 has a detailed description of the Foundation’s two-year study of legal education along with a link to Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law published in March 2007.