Experiential Learning in the First-Year Curriculum: The Public Interest Partnership
Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Vol. 8, Fall 2011
28 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2010 Last revised: 15 Dec 2012
Date Written: September 17, 2010
The newest learning initiatives in legal education focus much attention on the necessity for teachers to support students' development of professional identity, including "civic professionalism,"which" link[s] the interests of educators with the needs of practitioners and with the public the profession is pledged to serve." See William M. Sullivan et al., Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (2007). With that movement in mind, for the past five years in my legal research and writing (LRW) class, my students have partnered with non-profit organizations to provide them with legal research and advocacy documents to further the organization's public interest goals. In the article, I propose that bringing public interest partners as clients into the first year classroom accomplishes the main objectives of the recent law school learning initiatives by encouraging professional development at the point of best entry: first year students.
The article acknowledges the recent scholarship on experiential learning, and summarizes the movement by LRW professors of putting lawyering skills in the context of legal practice. I present the model I integrated in my LRW classroom of partnering with non-profit organizations and argue that this model both meets the pedagogical goals I have set for first year lawyering skills students and helps them develop their professional identities. The partnership also benefits non-profit organizations by providing free legal research and analysis on issues important to their mission.I conclude that implementing this model has developed my own professional identity as a scholar, teacher, and lawyer.
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