Assessing Experiential Legal Education: A Response to Professor Yackee

18 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2015 Last revised: 17 Oct 2015

See all articles by Keith A. Findley

Keith A. Findley

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: April 9, 2015

Abstract

In his recent article, my colleague Jason Yackee offers some interesting data on comparative rates of law-related job placement for graduates of the top 100 U.S. law schools. In the end, his analysis in part reaches the entirely unsurprising conclusion that higher-ranked law schools are more successful at placing their graduates in full-time law-related jobs than are lower-ranked schools. More interestingly, and less obviously, his data also suggest that schools that offer more experiential learning opportunities do not have any greater success in placing their students in full-time law-related jobs than do schools with fewer clinical offerings. From this, he queries whether clinical legal education is worth the expense and opportunity costs that it represents to law schools. In this response I focus on two important but largely overlooked questions that Yackee's data analysis (if correct) raises. First, I address the fundamental question Yackee's paper raises implicitly "what significance should attach to any disconnect that may exist between clinical opportunities and hiring rates?" My answer is that hiring rates shouldn't affect curricular design in the way Yackee suggests. Simply put, the primary objective underlying the move toward clinical education, and the reason the American Bar Association (ABA) has increasingly demanded more attention to a skills-based curriculum and practice-ready graduates, is not to improve the hiring rates for law school graduates. Rather, the rationale for clinical education is much more about effective pedagogy for adult learners (both about substance and skills) and the need to create effective lawyers, not just as beginning attorneys, but as life-long learners and reflective practitioners. Second, again assuming that Yackee is correct about the hiring disconnect, the real question is why aren't employers influenced by clinical education when (a) they vocally demand practice-ready lawyers and (b) it is so pedagogically valuable? I suggest that the problem does not reflect a lack of interest by employers in experientially trained and practice-ready graduates (and hence in clinics), but rather inadequacy in the hiring metrics and heuristics that are currently available to employers, and indeed a desire by private law firms for a broader range of clinical offerings (not fewer clinics).

Keywords: clinical legal education, experiential legal education, law school, law school crisis, experiential learning, legal education, clinical, clinics, skills, skills training

JEL Classification: K00, K10

Suggested Citation

Findley, Keith A., Assessing Experiential Legal Education: A Response to Professor Yackee (April 9, 2015). 2015 Wisconsin Law Review 627, Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1348, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2592684

Keith A. Findley (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-262-4763 (Phone)
608-263-3380 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.wisc.edu/facstaff/biog.php?iID=269

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

Paper statistics

Downloads
163
Abstract Views
1,706
Rank
332,488
PlumX Metrics