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June 20, 2008

Will the Northwestern innovative new program be successful?

While Gene is off at a great CALI conference, Northwestern Law School announced today its innovative new approach to legal education (official announcement here). 

Making all the headlines (in Insider Higher Ed and in the Chicago Tribune) is Northwestern's creation of an accelerated track that would allow students to get a JD in 2+ years.  But there is a lot more to the innovation being pioneered here in a program titled "Plan 2008: Preparing Great Leaders for the Changing World."  Particularly catching my eye were these components:

  • Communication efforts to ensure that students graduate with the ability to communicate in the different settings in which lawyers work. A strong focus will be placed on basic exposition, legal reasoning and analysis, drafting of simple contracts and business exposition (or effectively communicating advice to clients). Writing competency will be screened for in the admissions process and then stressed and tested throughout each year of law school, with the goal of certifying abilities in this area.
  • Teamwork infused extensively into existing courses and programs. Law school candidates will be favored for their project management experience and teamwork abilities in the admissions process. Faculty will be supported and trained to facilitate teamwork efforts.
  • Feedback that will improve the learning experience. The goal is to provide multiple feedback opportunities throughout course work and programs to encourage students and track their progress, rather than, as usual in law school, rely primarily on final exams to gauge achievement goals.

That is a lot to try to get done, especially while seeking to pioneer a new accelrated program.  I have a sense that many students will be drawn to various aspects of Plan 2008, but that faculty may at times struggle to make all these grand plans a reality.

Posted by DAB

June 20, 2008 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink

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Comments

I saw this and thought it was an interesting idea. One thing in the articles that struck me was how individuals perceived their 3rd year. A lot of people indicate that it is a waste and that students just skate through it, and thus it isn't necessary. The opponents to the 2 year JD say the 3rd year is important, and I agree with them. I don't think people realize that by the time the 3rd year comes around, students are so seasoned that maybe they don't realize how much they are taking away from their third year. Additionally, what's wrong if the 3rd year is a bit lax? By forcing students to remain for a relaxed 3rd year, we may be averting some nasty problems in the future. We all know too well that there are some real crazy go-getters at Law School. If you told them that they could get a degree in two years and then be finished and right into the bar and firm life, they'd probably jump all over the idea. They'd also be committed at 33 because they burnt out. The 3rd year may be a necessary recovery and transition period for students - kind of like when we were kids and our parents forced us to eat vegetables. That's my only comment on the whole matter; I think people don't think critically enough about what the 3rd year might be doing for students that isn't apparent on the surface but may still be extremely beneficial. Have a good weekend everybody.

Posted by: Alex | Jun 21, 2008 10:04:29 AM

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