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January 6, 2008

More on "Rethinking Legal Education"

Like Gene, I was at the AALS plenary session on "Rethinking Legal Education for the 21st Century," and found it quite fascinating.  My notes largely track his reflections in the posting below.

As usual, though, some of the real fireworks went off during the question-and-answer period.  Several of the presenters had emphasized a beefed-up curriculum in international law, properly noting that law has become globalized, and that this must be reflected in our classes.  A questioner, however, posed this challenge:  Have we gone to positioning our students among global communities while jumping right over the minority communities in our own country?  I thought it was a provocative question that still deserves a thorough answer.  I’m not sure that I have a good one, though I do see the questioner’s point.  Within my home state, legal practice in largely Hispanic South Texas is often very different than in Dallas, but that is not a topic which fits into any of our classes in a whole and real way. 

One thought I did have after the session was that there is the possibility of bridging these issues in some (but not all) cases.  The different legal cultures in Texas, for example, are in large part an extension of, and linked to, international migration and interaction.  For those situations, at least, it might be worthwhile to consider these issues by broadening the idea of international law to include distinct communities within our nation-- perhaps we should be thinking about inter-cultural law as much as we do inter-national law.  I suspect that one reason we are loath to do so may be that such a project would force us to recognize the segregation that continues to pervade our society at many levels.

-- Mark Osler

January 6, 2008 | Permalink


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Sorry I didn't do a better job transcribing the Q+A; I'm trying to get my hands on a recording of the event soon.

Mark, how well do you feel your (and other schools') clinical programs are meeting the need you describe for local practice? Given the highly local and contextual nature of that work, isn't direct practice a necessary -- if not sufficient -- way to learn about serving these communities effectively? (It's not sufficient in that students also need the opportunity to reflect on that work from the perspective of both skills and values).

I will say that I was ready for the panel to completely skip over the values section of the Carnegie Report and was impressed that they addressed it head-on. Some of it was oriented at old-school legal ethics (e.g. law firms' queasiness at hiring 1Ls who get no legal ethics training) which, IMHO, merely scratches the surface.

Posted by: Gene Koo | Jan 7, 2008 1:58:22 PM

Gene-- I would agree that clinicals do address that need, though probably not in a comparative or comprehensive way. We actually have no clinical programs at Baylor, so that is one source of my ignorance! I do remember from my own law school experience as a student, though, that clinicals did more to achieve that educational task than anything else.

Posted by: Mark Osler | Jan 7, 2008 6:34:25 PM

Wow... so were you one of the folks in the room who uncomfortably didn't raise your hand when the panelists (I forgot who it was) asked the room whether you had a clinical program or not?

I would love to see some comparative work across clinical programs because I suspect their mission, orientation, teaching capacity, etc. all vary widely, and I also suspect that we can't really generalize about what students are learning without that survey. I recall some of this covered in the Carnegie study?

Posted by: Gene Koo | Jan 8, 2008 5:25:56 PM

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