Educating Lawyers and Best Practices for Legal Education: A Mandate to Humanize the Law School Experience

A sampling of the Balance in Legal Education session at the AALS Annual Meeting:

William Mitchell’s Keystone and Pathways Programs:

n  Apply humanizing principles while also furthering Carnegie and Best Practices goals.

n  Are designed to meet learning goals while appealing to diverse students and diverse faculty, helping unite passion and purpose in work and identities.

n  Are available to other schools on a free and open source basis (download information on website). 


Keystone Program:

n  William Mitchell’s version of capstone courses.

n  Courses for the last year of law school that build upon previous learning—they’re not just more of the same—and help prepare students for transition to practice.

n  Call upon students

n  to take active responsibility as professionals addressing real world problems,

n  to demonstrate their learning through substantial, concrete manifestations, and to engage in self-reflection in the process.

n  A Keystone Course is a transformational learning experience representing both the culmination of law school learning and a transition to law practice and a lifetime of self-directed learning. 

n  As such, a Keystone Course serves as both a pinnacle and a passage.



Pathways to the Profession of LawTM

n  An interactive web-based tool that helps students plan their coursework
and extracurricular activities and also connect with the legal profession while in law school. 



Humanizing Features:

n  Both programs provide

n  flexibility permitting individual variation

n  Within a structure that ensure educational goals are met. 

n  Structured flexibility

n  provides autonomy and authenticity support for diverse students (and faculty) while promoting competence and reducing negative stressors


Keystone Program’s Humanizing Features:

n  Authenticity:  invites students to unite passion and purpose

n  Competence: helps students apply their learning to real world problem solving; emphasizes broad understanding over zero-sum competition

n  Relatedness:  requires students to work together as “cooperative problem solvers;” illuminates connection between education and helping others

n  Well being:  helps students shift from performance goals (good grades) to learning goals (helping others); sustains enthusiasm and forward momentum in dreaded last year of law school.


Pathways Program’s Humanizing Features:

n  Autonomy Support:  makes curriculum transparent,  aids counseling and reduces registration frustration

n  Authenticity:  encourages students to find their own way

n  Competence:  promotes readiness

n  Relatedness:  connects students and faculty with common interests, provides a site for collaboration across law school community


Carnegie and Best Practices Features:

n  Both programs further the Carnegie goal of comprehensive, integrated education across the cognitive, practical and professional apprenticeships.

n  They grew from the kind of intentional, mission-driven, outcomes-focused process recommended by Best Practices and reflect Best Practices values such as goal-setting, preparation for practice, formative assessment, self-reflection, and context-based instruction.


Using humanizing principles to implement Carnegie & Best Practices: Three Lessons

  1. Mitchell’s programs
    1. provide concrete examples of how Carnegie and Best Practices implementation can contribute to humanizing legal education, and
    2. Suggest one strategy for implementing Carnegie and Best Practices in a relatively more humanizing way—structured flexibility. 
  2. Use humanizing principles to enlist faculty support for and interest in working on educational reform efforts. 
    1. Create reform opportunities that allow faculty members to bring their individual strengths and interests to the table, to feel that they are being asked to do something that is authentic and empowering for them.
  3. Offer students the support and assistance they need to understand and apply Carnegie and Best Practices principles in making their own educational choices.


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