The Conscious Curriculum: From Novice Towards Mastery in Written Legal Analysis and Advocacy
108 Northwestern Law Review Colloquy 80 (2013)
23 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2013 Last revised: 26 Nov 2014
Date Written: August 13, 2013
Setting the recent calls for legal education reform in a smaller frame, this essay proposes targeted curricular reforms to move students towards mastery in written legal analysis and advocacy. While many law schools excel at promoting subject matter mastery, progress in lawyering and legal writing mastery lags far behind. Pitting the typical law school curriculum against the multi-disciplinary research on expertise, the essay pinpoints a solution. Legal education must regain its footing in the social dimension of expertise and broaden its narrow cognitive apprenticeship if law students are to graduate with the writing sophistication that employers want and need. The road to mastery is not paved with expensive curricular overhaul, but instead a coordinated recalibration of legal education's three primary curricular "strands" -- doctrinal, clinical, and legal research and writing. The essay outlines what this recalibrated integrated cognitive and social apprenticeship would look like in law school. It also offers suggested roles for each curricular strand and strategies for faculty collaboration. The essay ends with a legal research and writing curricular case study. This case study offers a concrete example of how law schools can implement the integrated social and cognitive apprenticeship through curricular design and faculty partnership, while controlling costs and maintaining current strengths.
Keywords: legal education, curricular reform, legal research and writing, cognitive psychology, expertise, mastery, clinical teaching, social apprenticeship, cognitive apprenticeship
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation