Universal Clinical Legal Education: Necessary and Feasible
15 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2017 Last revised: 13 May 2018
Date Written: March 29, 2017
Although bar officials and most legal educators agree that law students need to learn not just to “think like a lawyer” but also the professional skills needed to “do like a lawyer,” legal education lags far behind other professions in the clinical training it provides its graduates. The justification usually given for such lack of training is the claim that it is not financially feasible for law schools to ensure that every student graduate with a clinical experience.
This Essay challenges this mistaken justification. It first summarizes the numerous reports and studies showing the need for clinical training for law students. It then demonstrates empirically that a mandated law clinic or externship experience for all J.D. graduates is both financially feasible and readily attainable by all schools. Reviewing data certified by law schools to the ABA as complete and accurate, analysis shows that schools providing such clinical experiences for all graduates do not charge more in tuition nor raise their tuition at rates higher than schools not providing these opportunities. The Essay also demonstrates that implementing a clinical experience requirement would be relatively easy for most school, as data show that over eighty percent could provide a clinical experience today for each of its graduates without adding any additional faculty or clinical course. It concludes that it is not costs, but the will of law school and bar officials, that is preventing students from graduating with clinical training and causing so many graduates to be ill-prepared for the practice of law.
Keywords: legal education, law schools, clinical legal education, law clinic, experiential legal education, externship
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