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December 9, 2006

Apprenticeship as Part of Legal Education

I have spent more time than I probably should have the last few days pondering Doug Berman's suggestion below that schools might ban or discourage 3d years from traditional lecture courses, directing them instead to externships, clinicals, seminars, and similar forms of study. I think it is a very compelling idea, in that it propels us back towards our roots in legal education -- the idea of apprenticeship.

In Abraham Lincoln's day, lawyers were trained primarily by serving as apprentices to working attorneys. This training method emphasized a close relationship with a mentor and an emphasis on experiential knowledge. It seems that we have now hit the opposite extreme; legal education too often offers few close relationships between student and teacher, and the case method of learning has broken the link between what we teach and "real life" to the point that students usually don't know what happened to the people in the stories they read.

Not surprisingly, students seem to crave more one-on-one and small-group instruction and experiences that bring them closer to the realities of practice. Of the types of instruction Doug listed, including clinicals, externships, and seminars, what they have in common is the possibility of bringing at least some aspects of apprenticeship back into legal education. It may be the right time to move in that direction.

-- Mark Osler

December 9, 2006 in Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink


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