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

38 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2008

Date Written: 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.

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:

Larry Cunningham (Contact Author)

Charleston School of Law ( email )

81 Mary Street
Charleston, SC 29403
United States
843-377-2145 (Phone)

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