Thursday, January 18, 2007

Should Law Schools Be More Like Ed Schools?

This week's Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting piece about how law schools are trying to find a way to give students more "hands-on practice." It also suggests that there is a problematic similarity in curriculum from law school to law school. So does this mean law schools are in need of something like student teaching, and that diversity across programs is good? Maybe schools of education know something.
A Plea for Real-World Training in Law Schools
Carnegie Foundation report suggests more focus on clients, less on Socratic dialogues

While medical, business, and other professional schools frequently reinvent their curricula to require that students get hands-on practice before beginning their careers, law-school teaching has remained remarkably unchanged over the past century.

As a result, many students graduate with little experience working with real clients and an inadequate grounding in ethical and social issues, according to a new report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The report concludes that the Socratic "case dialogue" method that dominates law-school teaching does a good job of teaching students legal-reasoning skills but does little to prepare them to work with people or juggle morally complex issues.

"The gap between teaching students to think like a lawyer and act like a lawyer — especially in ethical situations — is greater than ever," said Lee S. Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation and one of the report's authors.

The curriculum is also extremely similar from school to school, which creates "a striking conformity in outlook and habits of thought among law-school graduates," according to the report, which was distributed and discussed at this month's annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.

(You can find the entire article here, but you'll need to be a subscriber or have access through your institution's library to see it.)

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