Design, Teach and Manage: Ensuring Educational Integrity in Field Placement Courses
Clinical Law Review, Fall 2012
49 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2012 Last revised: 1 Jan 2013
Date Written: October 15, 2012
Field placements are becoming increasingly important as law schools respond to demands for educational reform along with demands from students, practitioners, clients and other constituents to graduate “practice ready” lawyers who understand the values of the profession. At the same time, decreasing enrollments, ballooning law student debt, and a weak economy are creating internal pressures to cut the costs of providing legal education. As law schools react to competing demands to increase experiential learning while cutting costs, the ABA has relaxed accreditation standards governing study outside of the classroom. The result is that those who design, teach and manage field placement courses are expected to do more with less. In many instances, full-time field placement faculty members are being replaced with instructors or administrators who have limited teaching experience and no job security. The lack of experience, faculty status and job security makes it more difficult for those re- sponsible for field placement experiences to participate completely in discussions of the proper role of these courses in legal education. We argue that it is precisely during these challenging times that law schools most need experienced faculty to be in charge of field place- ment programs, not only to design and teach these courses, but also to be part of faculty and administration discussions of law school mission, purpose, budget and curriculum. We describe how a faculty- designed and faculty-taught field placement course can allow law schools to offer robust experiential learning opportunities at reasonable cost.
Keywords: externships, supervision, teaching, cost, credit-worthy
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