Using the Problem Method to Engage Students and Simulate Law Practice
Teaching Law Practice: Preparing the Next Generation of Lawyers (Vandeplas Publishing, 2013)
9 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2013 Last revised: 26 Nov 2014
Date Written: September 24, 2013
Criticism of American legal education has centered on use of the Socratic method and, more recently, lack of a practice orientation. But proposed reforms fail to consider an alternative teaching method used successfully by other graduate schools: the problem method.
This is a chapter from the new book Teaching Law Practice: Preparing the Next Generation of Lawyers (Vandeplas Publishing, 2013). The chapter explains how the problem method is used to teach Remedies, a third-year capstone course. Instead of briefing cases, students master legal doctrine through assigned readings and analyzing legal problems of the sort a client or supervising attorney might present.
The problem method offers several advantages over traditional case-recitation or lectures. It simulates law practice, it suits the learning styles of today’s students, and it is engaging. Students are given an opportunity to "do something with" the legal material. On course evaluations, 75% of student comments on the problem method have been favorable. And implementation requires no curriculum changes or resource reallocation.
Keywords: legal education, problem method, remedies, PBL
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