Teaching from the Dirt: Best Practices and Land Use Law Pedagogy

22 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2011 Last revised: 13 Oct 2012

Date Written: October 12, 2012


The inspired and compelling article by Patricia Salkin and John Nolon, 'Practically Grounded', suggests that a course in land use law may be well-suited for cutting-edge pedagogical practices. This essay addresses what the authors of Practically Grounded have identified as a present deficiency in legal education: many, perhaps most, future land use lawyers graduate from law school without having looked at a parcel of real property from the perspective of a practicing attorney. This essay explores the opportunities presented in a course that incorporates 'teaching from the dirt' and discusses how such a course can help to connect the dots that lie between legal education and the practice of law. Teaching from the dirt involves using land and real world controversies to facilitate student engagement with the facts and laws that govern land use decision making. Students in such a class are required to perform like lawyers. To accomplish these goals, this course compels students to participate in a simulated regulatory process concerning the development of an actual parcel of vacant property, to engage the controversy on behalf of a client, to navigate the legal process, and to envision how the law applies to the land and influences the outcome of the process.

Keywords: land use, legal education, real property, teaching, students

Suggested Citation

Hirokawa, Keith H., Teaching from the Dirt: Best Practices and Land Use Law Pedagogy (October 12, 2012). Pace Environmental Law (PELR) Review, Vol. 2 (no. 1), p. 68 (2011), Albany Law School Research Paper No. 15 of 2011-2012, NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 11/12 #13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1907184

Keith H. Hirokawa (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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