« AALS Innovations: Open forum | Main | More on "Rethinking Legal Education" »

January 5, 2008

Raw outline of "Rethinking Legal Education For The 21st Century"

Below are the "raw" notes I took in the AALS Friday afternoon plenary session, "Rethinking Legal Education for the 21st Century" featuring Edward L. Rubin (Vanderbilt University Law School), Vicki C. Jackson (Georgetown University Law Center), Robert Mac Crate, Esq. (Senior Counsel, Sullivan and Cromwell), Martha L. Minow (Harvard Law School), Suellyn Scarnecchia (University of New Mexico School of Law), William M. Sullivan (Senior Scholar The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), Judith W. Wegner (University of North Carolina School of Law).

Update: MP3 recording of this session now available.

[The panel began with Bill Sullivan outlining the Carnegie Foundation's Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law.]

Bill Sullivan (Carnegie Foundation)

Prof ed's common goal as it moved into university: a threefold apprenticeship:

  • knowledge
  • competence for practice
  • Identity + prof. purpose

Experiential learning

  • Mastery
  • Judgment

AALS will be collecting best practices at


Ed Rubin (Vanderbilt)

Law schools teach all three years at same level of sophistication. Vanderbilt now offers areas concentration, incrementing analytical sophistication, guided by faculty

Vicki Jackson (Georgetown)

  1. Globalization - an opportunity to rethink our fields

  2. Expanding learning experiences.How we teach is what we teach -- Problem-solving, reflective

    • Social science about learning
    • Critiques about legal education
    • [Illegible -- help?]
  3. Law + Legal systems to Justice / Fairness. "Week 1" (of 2nd semester)

    • Intro to realistic, complex multiunit problem
    • Problem-based experiential setting
      • Assigned + act out roles
      • Collaboratively w/ role group
    • Builds on 1st-year content


ABA 25 years ago urged reassessment together

Martha Minow (Harvard)

theme: "choice"

Once it became clear that we were serious, there was little disagreement (but enormous resistance). There were two contradictory objections to each idea:

  • "We've tried that before."
  • "We've never tried that before."

Autonomy of prof. in the classroom leads to need to learn to play well together

  1. "What do students need now?" not "How did I learn law.” Student as a person on a map
  2. Some of mastery, not labeled w/ doctrine. Rather, problem-solving, strategy
  3. Ethics + Role: taking agency
  4. Institutional design change: choice

How change happened at Harvard:

  • Leadership: Dean on committee, attend every one
  • Process, not report
  • Ambition: pursue something faculty is afraid of: results not guaranteed

Exceed existing constraints

  • Look outside: medical, business, policy
  • More process: agreement before the vote
  • It's not over: ongoing, not episodic

Suellen Scarnecchia (University of New Mexico School of Law)

Clinical faculty at NM are tenured [applause]

Do we have the right faculty? Yes: we can integrate the 3 apprenticeships with current personnel. But what stops us?

  • History: clinical and legal writing faculty fought to get in
  • Bias about each other (mutual between faculty and clinical)

We need

  • respect
  • collaboration


  1. A reason to change (Purpose)

    • We're smart
    • Self actualization (letting the energy out)
    • Conscience + stewardship: build a better society
  2. Multiple dimensions of teaching

    • Beyond intellectual knowledge: new epistemology. We construct knowledge in context.
    • Beyond content
  3. It's About learning

    • Students learn better that way
      • - Values / motivation
      • - Experiential:learn by doing
    • Progression
    • Advising: career choices, values, courses
  4. It's About Learning

    • Take assessment seriously
    • Bifurcate bar exam: 1st year analytics


What are the challenges in next 20-30 years

  • Suellen: tuition,outcomes assessment
  • Judith: faculty retirement (replenishing); new generation of learners
  • Martha: technology - a new environment w/ new students -- what happens outside classroom?
  • MacCrate: practice charge

Talk about Social Justice + Ethics in the curriculum

  • Judith: visiting classes - almost no mention of "justice" in over 200 classrooms. No sense of "profession." Fun analytics can miss "who are the people"? Try 3-unit courses on lawyers + role of law in 1st year
  • Sullen: Alumni concerned about hiring 1Ls with no ethical training
  • Vicki: Specialization of law leads to "I don' t know legal ethics." Need to relate among faculty and expertise
  • Martha: asks her students why "law school" is not "justice school."Hidden curriculum leading into the job market, secret message of "don't talk about justice - it sounds naive." Professors lack theory of how to get to a more just world
  • Bill: Dearth of real knowledge (research) into what happens in law school.Likewise little knowledge about actual practice. Think @ more kinds of research about practice

Students as subjects/ agents

  • Engage students about their aspirations
  • Are professional schools about high-level theory or judgment?

Casebooks as a barrier to innovation: publishers not moving quickly enough?

  • Judith: Check out CALI’s eLangdell initiative [editor's note: this question was not a plant!]

January 5, 2008 in Conferences, Deans and innovations, Reform | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Raw outline of "Rethinking Legal Education For The 21st Century":


The comments to this entry are closed.