Implementing Best Practices

The faculty at the University of Massachusetts School of Law – Dartmouth started reviewing the Stuckey (and others) Best Practices for Legal Education a couple of years ago, but have become a bit more serious about it in recent months.  Last fall, Mary Lynch and Carrie Kaas presented and lead a short workshop at the School, not just introducing the principles of Best Practices (and the Carnegie Report), but encouraging us to continue our discussions after they left with a view to instilling Best Practices principles into our particular curriculum.  We obediently divided ourselves into sub-groups based on the areas of the curriculum in which we wanted to focus — the First Year, the Upper Level, or the Curriculum as a whole.  The group I chose met only once, and I think was similar to the others, given the distraction of the transformation of Southern New England into the new UMass Law School. An added distraction developed when we all realized that the curriculum with which we had been working was going to have to be revised to reflect our more public-spirited mission, among other factors.  So in the Spring we agreed that, when we next met about Best Practices, we would focus on the last chapter of the book, the one that offers a Model Curriculum.  Finally, we recently attempted this revitalization, and had a free-flowing conversation; the full-time faculty was joined by several other professors from among the legal skills, bar preparation, and academic success departments.

A suggestion made during the conversation seemed to resonate with several participants:  we should develop a list of skill-sets we think all law students should have gained by the time they complete law school.  In order to follow-up on that, since then, a small group (unfortunately, and a possible issue for a future blog posts, the group was exceedingly small and was not representative of the meeting’s participant-groups) of volunteers has met, enjoyed a likely brainstorming session, and developed a tentative list of the skill-sets. 

Where are we now?  We’ve distributed this list to the entire faculty, have asked for input — additions, deletions, etc. — and have invited them all to our meeting this month, during which we hope to match courses with the skill-sets we’ve come up with.

Stay tuned for reports on our progress, and on discussions of participation, buy-in, buy-out, and other controversial items.  Please email me at if you’d like a copy of the product once it’s finalized.

One Response

  1. Irene – you are doing a wonderful thing…writing about your school’s process as you discover/discuss/implement Best Practices. Teresa Clemmer, Acting Director (during David Mear’s Fulbright year in China) of VLS’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, has challenged Vermont’s experiential faculty to describe our programmatic goals and assessment methods as a way to encourage discussion of Best Practices. We are all, of course, busy. The challenge will be to see if we can retain this important focus in the face of other pressing demands. I promise to keep posting to this disussion as well, and will be even more encouraged if others join the discussion. If you want to know more get in touch with me and I’ll share updates and questions. liz

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