The Use of 'Boot Camps' and Periods in Externships and Clinics: Lessons Learned from a Criminal Prosecution Clinic

Larry Cunningham

St. John's University School of Law


Mississippi Law Journal, Vol. 74, 2005

Clinical faculty and externship supervisors often desire for students to hit the ground running in their field placement experiences in order to make maximum use of the limited time available for learning. This article proposes a solution to a chronic dilemma in clinical legal education: how to use a classroom component to prepare students effectively for concurrent work in an externship or clinic.

Pre-semester orientation periods - or what I term boot camps - can infuse skills and knowledge into students to enable them to start their externship or clinic experience with immediate, practical skills and knowledge. This empowers them to make effective use of their first few weeks in the course. A boot camp can be as simple as a one- or two-hour orientation to the clinic office. It could also be a week-long seminar on skills development. Boot camps are, in effect, a way of front-loading instruction in a course. This provides a number of benefits to students and instructors alike. There are, however, costs associated with front-loading portions of a course. On balance, I believe the benefits far exceed the costs in most situations.

In Part I of this article, I discuss my own boot camp experiences, both as a law student and later as a law professor. In Part II, I layout the challenges as I see them in structuring a classroom component for a clinical or externship course. In Part III, I turn to the specifics of frontloaded instruction, discussing different types of boot camps and the advantages and disadvantages of each model. In Part IV, I discuss two areas of possible, future direction for boot camps.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

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Date posted: July 26, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Cunningham, Larry, The Use of 'Boot Camps' and Periods in Externships and Clinics: Lessons Learned from a Criminal Prosecution Clinic (2005). Mississippi Law Journal, Vol. 74, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1167922

Contact Information

Larry Cunningham (Contact Author)
St. John's University School of Law ( email )
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
718-990-7616 (Phone)
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