Beyond Practical Skills: Nine Steps for Improving Legal Education Now

19 Pages Posted: 5 May 2012 Last revised: 1 Jan 2013

Date Written: May 4, 2012


It has been five years since the Carnegie Report “Educating Lawyers” called upon law schools to adopt an integrated approach to professional education that teaches practical skills and professionalism across the curriculum. Yet so far, very few schools have responded to this clarion call for wholesale curricular reform. Considering the inertial effect of traditional law school pedagogy and the institutional impediments to change, this delay is not surprising. A fully integrated approach to teaching professional skills (such as the medical school model) would require major resource reallocations, realignment of teaching responsibilities, redesign of courses, and a change to graduation requirements. While I fully support such comprehensive reform, the pragmatist in me knows that it will take years to accomplish.

My goal in this essay is to offer a “self-help” remedy for faculty members and administrators interested in responding to the Carnegie Report’s call for greater emphasis on experiential education, but uninterested in waiting for the committee deliberations, reports, faculty votes, and tough resource trade-offs that lie ahead. We drag our heels at our own perils, and to the serious disadvantage of our current students. What follows is a description of nine changes that individual faculty members and deans can make now to improve the professional education of law students. While each initiative when viewed in isolation may seem modest, collectively they could have a huge impact on our programs.

Keywords: legal education, clinical legal education, law teaching, professional responsibility, professional ethics, Carnegie Report

Suggested Citation

Cassidy, R. Michael, Beyond Practical Skills: Nine Steps for Improving Legal Education Now (May 4, 2012). Boston College Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 4, September 2012, Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 263, NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 11/2012, Available at SSRN:

R. Michael Cassidy (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States
617-552-4343 (Phone)

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