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January 20, 2007

Carnegie Foundation report on legal education

As if the LSSSE's Engaging Legal Education report was not enough grist for the law school innovation mill (details here), along comes a report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching  entitled, Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law.  Robert Ambrogi provides some highlights from the report in this post at Legal Blog Watch, and I hope to discuss the report in the near future once I have a chance to consume it fully.

UPDATE:  Norm Pattis at Crime & Federalism has this potent reaction to the Carnegie report.  Here is a portion:

The emphasis in legal education on such things as law reviews is a telling sign of why lawyers aren't educated well. Law review articles are fun to read, and law school professors are necessary. But the law is not reason made manifest in the world.

The life of the law, Holmes once reminded, is experience. And in the case of the life of a practicing lawyer, that experience often comes in the form of need that is impervious to reason.

Want better trained lawyers?  Spend the third year of legal education outside the classroom. Require all lawyers to intern for a month or so in the local emergency room so that they can see the ordinary chaos that many folks call day-to-day living.  Then send the lawyers for a month or so to a drug or alcohol rehabilitation clinic, where they can rub elbows with life-destroying need.  Then send the lawyers to a psychiatric facility for or two.  Top off the year with work in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

In each of these settings, assign the would-be lawyers the task of interviewing people. Let the lawyers identify one area of the interviewee's life in which legal advice is needed. Then let the would-be lawyers provide counsel. 

That is the reality of the law the small firm practitioner. Nothing prepares lawyers for the need they face in their clients. And no classroom experience undertaken in the cool light of reason can prepare a lawyer for the emotional travail of a client in fear, terror or anger. So let's change lawyering education, but not by creating another breed of teachers who can pontificate about what they haven't done, and perhaps cannot do.

Posted by DAB

January 20, 2007 in Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink


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The majority of lawyers graduating from UC Davis go on to work in the business world or in government. I'm not sure that the local emergency center or an alcohol rehabilitation clinic or a psychiatric facility will be likely to introduce them to the "real world" of lawyering, at least as they are likely to experience it.

That said, law schools generally make lots of externship opportunities available to students--but not simply to work in soup kitchen as food workers or in an emergency room as health care attendants--but rather to work in such contexts as lawyers in training, conducting intake of information from clients and advising them on their legal options.

Posted by: Anupam Chander | Jan 22, 2007 12:28:07 AM

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