Reforming the Third Year of Law School

29 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2012  

Lyman Johnson

Washington and Lee University - School of Law; University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law

Robert T. Danforth

Washington and Lee University - School of Law

David Millon

Washington and Lee University - School of Law

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

In early 2008, Washington and Lee fundamentally reformed the entire third year law school curriculum. The new curriculum broke with decades-long tradition by focusing entirely on student-centered, experiential learning. It also sharply distinguished the educational approach in the third year from that in the first and second years, thereby creating a strong sense of pedagogical progression. Finally, it more deliberately prepared students for the transition to practice and emphasized the importance of attending to the formation of a professional identity.

This article, a chapter in a new book − Reforming Legal Education (D. Moss & D. Curtis, eds., 2012) – describes in detail the substantive curricular changes made at Washington and Lee. But it also describes more process-oriented factors that are critical to successful curricular reform such as aligning proposed changes with a school’s or university’s larger strategic objectives so as to achieve true institutional “fit.” We also describe the importance of thoughtful implementation of reform, after adoption, through a phased-in “roll out” process. Finally, we relate how our curricular changes included, from the outset, a mandated mechanism for post-adoption assessment on an ongoing basis. Assurance of expected regular occasions for revisiting curricular reform can itself facilitate change and overcome initial resistance.

Keywords: legal education, law school, law school curriculum, transition to practice, professional identity, admission to the bar

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Lyman and Danforth, Robert T. and Millon, David, Reforming the Third Year of Law School (2012). Reforming Legal Education, D. Moss & D. Curtis, eds., 2012; U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-24; Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2139789

Lyman P. Q. Johnson (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States
540-458-8515 (Phone)
540-458-8488 (Fax)

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

Robert T. Danforth

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States
540-458-8524 (Phone)
540-458-8488 (Fax)

David K. Millon

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States
540-458-8993 (Phone)
540-458-8586 (Fax)

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