Journal of College Student Development, Forthcoming
5 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2007
Educating Lawyers, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's new book, explores legal education and urges changes. Educating Lawyers attempts to provide a view of legal education through the lenses of the educational processes for clergy, engineers, nurses, and physicians. A premise of the study is that professional education's value depends on linking it successfully to practitioners and the public that they serve. The study first explores the Socratic method, which is key to students learning a common language and posits that over-reliance on it can create gaps in moral and ethical training. Better transparency in the classroom can address this concern. The study also concludes that experience with clients and ethical substance are missing from the traditional law school curriculum. These are issues that should be addressed and for which the price is high. Yet, legal classrooms, however they are configured, cannot resolve the fact that many law students do not arrive at studying the law through some sort of calling to the profession as do most of those choosing medical or religious professions. The study's failure to account for this "input" issue diminishes the value of its proposed solutions. To some extent, dissatisfaction of recent graduates is not the fault of legal education or even the profession, but instead can be attributed to uncertainty and youth. Making the changes proposed, including more practice oriented opportunities, may help students learn deeper and better, but the real solution may well be to decrease, in some cases dramatically, the number of potential lawyers they admit, screening not just for aptitude, but for desire. The financial consequences of such a change would likely put many schools out of business. Over time, it would also decrease the lawyers available to fulfill the social contract with which the study began its review.
Keywords: legal education, educating lawyers, curriculum, professional education, educational processes, Socratic method, public, social contract, contractual responsibilities, case-dialogue, instruction, real-world lawyering skills, learning, assessment, New York, analytical reasoning, academic legitimacy
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