Preaching to the Trier: Why Judicial Understanding of Law School Clinics is Essential to Continued Progress in Legal Education
17 Clinical Law Review 515 (2011)
49 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2010 Last revised: 6 Sep 2016
Date Written: August 4, 2010
Recent calls for change in legal education have renewed the charge for law schools to enhance and integrate experiential learning opportunities, including law school clinics. While a robust conversation has developed within the legal academy about how to implement change, an extremely important constituency within the legal community - the judiciary - has been left out of the dialogue.
Judges often hold mistaken assumptions regarding the goals of clinical legal education and the manner in which clinics strive to educate while simultaneously providing live-client representation. Uncorrected judicial misconceptions about what law school clinics do can actually harm the primary goals of the overall educational program. The article identifies barriers to judges’ understanding and support of clinical education. It then examines several specific areas of clinical practice where flawed judicial assumptions are revealed to have a potentially negative impact on student learning and client interests. Additionally, it proposes strategies aimed at enhancing judicial understanding of the clinical mission and its role in legal education. Building upon the recent, ground-breaking Carnegie Foundation report, which specifically encourages the development of experiential and applied learning opportunities in law school pedagogy, this article explores the means by which clinicians can and should enlighten judicial decision-makers concerning the role of clinical legal education. It concludes that law clinics must pursue targeted engagement of judges to enrich the quality of legal education and enhance the enduring value of the experiential learning opportunities being afforded to law students today.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation