Updating Institutional Responses to Best Practices

St. John’s U Law School Professor Gina Calabrese posted this query to the clinic listserv:  

“I’d like to hear from other clinicians whose schools are taking
steps to study and implement the Best Practices report.  What
is being done, what issues are being raised?” 

I think this would make a good public discussion.  We know that U of Dayton has created the “Lawyer as Problem Solver” Program (http://law.udayton.edu/prospectivestudents).  And,everyone has heard about Washington & Lee’s 3rd year reform. (http://law.wlu.edu/thirdyear).  

However, these schools are not the only ones engaged in change. Much energy and work and thinking and reform is occurring without fanfare or media attention – so here is your chance to share news about your school!

Let’s see if we can get at least 50 schools to report! I’ll start with ALBANY LAW

ALBANY – the Dean has established a Center for Excellence in Law Teaching to document ongoing reform and to support teaching and curriculum enhancement.  ( see www.teachinglawstudents.com and click on Albany Law Initiatives or go straight to http://www.albanylaw.edu/sub.php?navigation_id=1717 ).

4 Responses

  1. At Southern New England (soon to be UMass-Dartmouth Law), following a presentation-workshop presented by Mary Lynch and Carrie Kaas this past fall, we divided ourselves up into 3 groups – those interested in working on the entire curriculum, those interested in working on the first-year curriculum, and those interested in the middle-years. These groups have started meeting pretty regularly. I’m only one one of these committees, so I can’t yet speak to all, but generally we’re looking at specific chapters of Best Practices and, with a view towards the time-line on which we’re focused, trying to come up with suggestions as to how to begin supplementing our classes with Best Practices.

    Perhaps unrelated (?) to the above, In the Immigration Clinic, which I direct, I’ve developed several “Competencies” that the students will have to fulfill, in addition to their regular class assignments; competencies require their use of different skills — some require writing, others oral advocacy, others interviewing skills, etc. In this way, skills beyond purely legal case analysis are taught, encouraged, reinforced, and critiqued.

  2. Irene, you have been a wonderful facilitator of this process at SNELC (soon to be UMASS-DARTMOUTH LAW). I think encouraging productive dialogue separate from the usual faculty politics and ordinary business helps create the kind of energy needed for change.

    I would love to see the competencies you came up with and post them to my CELT site (http://www.teachinglawstudents.com). We are all experimenting at this stage and your input would be so helpful.

  3. Here’s a few of the things we are doing at Elon Law:
    We have an extensive preceptor program in the first year, where practicing attorneys not only mentor students outside of class, but come to classes to observe the students they are mentoring. We also have monthly “tea” where students have the opportunity to interact with practicing lawyers.
    We have at least one or two small section experiences for each first year student (in addition to their legal writing class). This is only one aspect of our commitment to engaged learning. In those classes, as well as in many others in both the first year and upper-level, it is common for professors to use small groups, practice problems, writing exercises, and other methods of active learning.
    Our Lawyering, Leadership and Professionalism course, offered in our two-week winter session, focuses on the various roles that lawyers as leaders play – in their practice, in the legal community, and in the community at large. This is not a theory course – it involves teamwork and a variety of active learning exercises. The second year leadership program, which builds on the skills developed in the first year, has students in teams addressing community problems, and actually working with various non-profit organizations in devising solutions to an issue facing that organization and presenting the recommendations to that client.

  4. The University of Washington School of Law has appointed a committee to assess Foundations for Legal Study, an academic orientation program instituted three years ago. The goal of the orientation is to level the playing field for incoming students and provide context for the first year doctrinal studies by tracing the progress of Bradley v. ASARCO, an environmental trespass cases involving microscopic emissions. UWLS is also evaluating the new Comparative and International Law course now required of all first year students.

    For the upper division curriculum, two efforts are particularly noteworthy. First, UWLS is in the early stages of using on-line portfolios in an innovative effort to combine student development of individual career plans through our career planning office with educational efforts by faculty around developing a professional identity.

    Second, we are continuing our efforts to expand our already extensive experiential opportunities by partnering with the Washington Access to Justice and the Law Schools Committee. The Laurel Rubin Rural Externship Advocacy Project (REAP), the first collaborative effort between the committee, three civil legal services providers, and the three Washington Law Schools was by all accounts a roaring success. A new project involving Heritage University, a school serving Native American and Hispanic students in central Washington is underway, and other projects are in the discussion stage.

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