Are Clinics A Magic Bullet?

24 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2014

See all articles by Deborah Cantrell

Deborah Cantrell

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: March 10, 2014


In the current conversation about reforming legal education, one of the constant refrains is that law schools must graduate students who are “practice ready.” Commentators go on to argue that for law schools to produce “practice ready” students, they must expand how they offer experiential learning. One potent way to do that is to expand clinical legal education programs. I worry that law schools (and others) are envisioning clinical legal education as a magic bullet that will solve all of the ills and imbalances present in current legal education. In this Article, I demonstrate the unhelpfulness of the phrase “practice ready,” and dismantle the idea that clinical legal education, or any other singularly-focused intervention, can transform legal education. Building from key insights already made in clinical legal pedagogy, however, I offer an alternative vision of legal education as an ecology of learning, in which law school as a whole is understood to be an interconnected and interdependent system that is dynamic, changing and in action. I articulate how understanding law school as an ecology of learning can advance innovative changes — both small and large — leading to graduates who have better chances of flourishing in the legal profession.

Keywords: clinical legal education, legal education, practice ready, legal education reform, legal ethics and professionalism

JEL Classification: 121, Z00

Suggested Citation

Cantrell, Deborah, Are Clinics A Magic Bullet? (March 10, 2014). Alberta Law Review, Forthcoming, U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-2, Available at SSRN:

Deborah Cantrell (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics