Of Learning Civil Procedure, Practicing Civil Practice, and Studying a Civil Action: A Low-Cost Proposal to Introduce First-Year Law Students to the Neglected MacCrate Skills
30 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2010
Date Written: 2000
This article proposes three exercises designed to help introduce law students to four of the lawyering skills that the American Bar Association's MacCrate Report has identified as fundamental, but that legal scholarship has largely ignored: factual investigation, client counseling, recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas, and organization and management of legal work. My goal in devising these exercises has been to allow a professor teaching a traditional, first-year civil procedure class to incorporate them into her syllabus at low cost to herself (in terms of time expended and doctrine sacrificed) and to the law school as an institution (in terms of conserving financial and personnel resources). Each exercise is based on events that took place in Anderson v. Cryovac, the “toxic tort” case reported in journalist Jonathan Harr's hugely popular A Civil Action. The article concludes that although students cannot begin to master practice skills in the context of a substantive law course, as opposed to a clinical or simulation setting, the interested professor can introduce such skills in a first-year substantive law class without spending inordinate amounts of time or money to do so, and without sacrificing coverage of doctrinal matter. The exercises I suggest can animate the class, help students understand abstruse procedural issues by placing them in a particular, familiar factual context, and most importantly, send the message that the skills are, indeed, fundamental.
Keywords: Legal education, layering skills, teaching
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