Directiveness in Clinical Supervision

60 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2010

See all articles by James H. Stark

James H. Stark

University of Connecticut - School of Law

Jon Bauer

University of Connecticut - School of Law

James Papillo

Holy Apostles College & Seminary

Date Written: March 1, 1993

Abstract

This article, first published in 1993 but not previously available on SSRN, explores the attitudes and practices of clinical law teachers relating to issues of “directiveness” in their clinical supervision. The inquiry focuses on the tension between the educational value of student autonomy and clinicians’ professional interest in ensuring high quality client representation. The authors conducted a survey of clinicians teaching at law schools throughout the United States.

After discussing the attributes of directive and nondirective approaches to clinical supervision, the article turns to discussion and analysis of the survey results. In responding to survey questions about how supervisors should behave in situations involving decision making, information sharing, and task performance, most clinicians endorsed relatively nondirective approaches. However, in responding to questions about client service obligations, a large majority also endorsed an ideal of providing clinic clients with the “best possible” service, drawing on the combined best efforts of the supervising attorneys as well as the students. The authors discuss the tension between this view of client service and the educational goals of clinical programs, a tension particularly acute for clinicians who believe in a nondirective model.

The article also examines clinicians’ perceptions of tension between educational and client service goals. Nearly all survey respondents reported experiencing concern about directiveness in their supervision, and most felt that at times they supervise more directively than they should. Responses to questions about how clinicians actually supervise also suggested that their practices are often more directive than their beliefs. The article explores variables that may affect a clinical teacher’s beliefs and practices.

In conclusion, the authors suggest that clinicians favoring a nondirective approach should be open with students about the necessity, and normalcy, of occasional supervisor intervention to safeguard client interests. They also suggest that clinical teachers need to carefully draw a distinction between the “best possible” client service, which may be impossible to achieve without having supervisors take over performance in a way that undermines a clinic’s educational objectives, and highly competent, even excellent, client service, which can coexist with substantial student autonomy.

Appendices to the article provide a copy of the survey, a tabulation of the responses, and comments written by survey respondents on a variety of issues relating to directiveness.

Suggested Citation

Stark, James H. and Bauer, Jon and Papillo, James, Directiveness in Clinical Supervision (March 1, 1993). Boston University Public Interest Law Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1993, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1633623

James H. Stark

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

Jon Bauer (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States
860-570-5205 (Phone)

James Papillo

Holy Apostles College & Seminary ( email )

33 Prospect Hill Road
Cromwell, CT 06416-2027
United States
(860) 632-3010 (Phone)

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