Legal Educators Gather to Discuss Experiential Learning
Theory or experience?
Fundamentals or application?
Well-rounded or work-ready?
Those are the questions being weighed by law schools everywhere. Facing a 57 percent placement rate for new grads – and fearing the increased popularity of lower cost two-year programs – many law schools are looking for ways to better prepare students for the reality of practice.
This goal inspired the formation of the Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law. Comprised of 150 legal educators from 75 law schools, the group recently met for three days in North Carolina to identify the best practices in hands-on legal education.
One potential model is a co-op program like the one pioneered by the Northeastern University School of Law. There, students complete a two-year classroom curriculum supplemented by a one-year practicum where they work in four practice settings to gain real-world experience. According to preliminary findings in a study by Maurer School of Law professor Bill Henderson, Northeastern’s program reinforces classroom learning by allowing students to apply it faster. Based off interviews with Northeastern alumni and students, students were asking better questions and contributing more valuable insights in 3L classes. After being exposed to different practice areas, students were better able to identify the best fits for their legal careers.
While Northeastern’s practicum helps students build goodwill with prospective employers, it isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all silver bullet for increasing employment rates and practice readiness. Instead, it is an option designed to show legal educators how practical applications can inform curriculum (and vice versa).
“This is not just about clinical legal education,” cautioned Elon Dean Luke Bierman in his opening remarks to kick off the alliance’s second annual symposium. “This is not just about externships. It’s not just about simulations in classrooms. It’s about how to move all these things in a particular way, and how to think about how it fits into the enterprise of legal education and the goals we have for our students.”
Source: National Law Journal
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