Worst Practices in Legal Education

I got the idea for this blog post from Chuck Weisselberg.   We all feel unworthy sometimes to tout what we do as BEST Practices.  It’s probably easier to name the poor practices of legal education.  So here’s the beginning of my pet peeves :

1) Acceptance of  law professors who disparage and show immense disdain for the VERY profession in which their students are preparing to join

2) Allowing the book to define how and what you choose to teach

3) Regurgitating in class what students should have read to prepare for class

4) Creating and supporting false dichotomies between theory and practice, ethics and “thinking like a lawyer,” and professional and personal values.


Please join me in commenting on the WORST PRACTICE scenarios you see in legal education…

5 Responses

  1. Demeaning students rather than teaching them!

  2. Continuing to grade our students based solely on one exam at the end of the course, with little or no formative assessment during the course.

  3. Lecturing at the front of a class, with eyes closed, and refusing to answer questions.

    Failing to realize that students have various different learning styles, and teaching just to the type of learner that the professor is, rather than using a variety of teaching methods.

  4. Failing to show genuine interest in whether the students are learning, by solely lecturing without incorporating discussion, problem solving, or other active learning techniques. I will never forget my corporations professor. He came in to every class with the book, walked up to the podium, opened it up, looked down, and read aloud without projecting his voice or ever looking up. Scintillating! So – I remember the professor quite well, but I don’t remember a thing about the law of corporations.

  5. 1. The Socratic method. It needs to go away. While it certainly may encourage students to read cases so they don’t sound stupid in class, it isn’t the best pedagogical method. It is annoying (if not scary) for the “victim” while often more dull than informative to the rest of the class. And, since people are more interested in being ready to answer the questions thrown at them, they don’t fully absorb the material they read. Instead, they find shortcuts to get the answers and don’t remember what they read last week. However, that’s not to say students shouldn’t be involved, but they should want to be involved rather than thinking being involved is necessary evil of law school. The Socratic method makes a positive into a negative…very quickly.

    2. Teaching out of a textbook while ignoring real life practice scenarios. The “here’s the law” approach doesn’t help when the law says X and Y, but 95% of practicing attorneys do X and find Y to be absurd for A, B, and C reasons that aren’t in the textbook. The adjuncts teach “real” law while the academic, full time professors tend to teach the “textbook” law.

    3. Once a semester tests. Students should be taught the material, given exercises to reinforce the material (with feedback), and be tested at least twice a semester.

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