How Much Clinic for How Many Students?: Examining the Decision to Offer Clinics for One Semester or an Academic Year
68 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 7, 2011
Many law schools are engaged in curricular reform aimed at more effectively preparing students for practice. Two publications that have influenced these reform efforts, Best Practices for Legal Education and the Carnegie Foundation’s report Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, suggest that there should be more clinical opportunities. With limited resources, there is an apparent tension between providing live-client clinics to as many students as possible versus a deeper clinical experience over an academic year. This article examines the questions raised by a law school’s decision to offer a clinic for one semester or two. In designing a coherent curriculum, law schools should be able to articulate the justification for the particular mix in length and types of experiential opportunities. The first part of the article analyzes clinical scholarship, adult learning theory and the author’s experience teaching a child advocacy clinic to assess the advantages and disadvantages of one-semester and year-long clinics. The author concludes that there are sufficient benefits to a full year of clinic that some year-long clinics should be part of a robust curriculum. Notwithstanding this view, she recognizes that providing the maximum number of students with a clinic is a laudable goal and students can get a meaningful experience in one semester. The second part of the article offers recommendations for designing one-semester clinics based on the author’s experience converting a year-long clinic to a one-semester clinic. The author suggests that, in offering clinics for one semester, clinicians cannot do it all and instead must make conscious choices in clinic objectives and design to ensure that students maximize the identified learning goals.
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