The Seven Essential Law School Simulation Courses

49 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2024

See all articles by Mitchell Zamoff

Mitchell Zamoff

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law

Date Written: April 4, 2024

Abstract

As we mark the ten-year anniversary of the American Bar Association’s six-credit experiential learning requirement and the launch of the NextGen bar exam, it is critical for U.S. law schools to conduct rigorous assessments of their experiential education curricula. While most or all law schools now offer students experiential opportunities to develop lawyering skills in clinics and field placements, there is much less consistency in their simulation course offerings. Simulation courses are a critical component of experiential legal education. While students in clinics and field placements gain valuable, realistic experience addressing the issues presented by their actual clients, those issues may sometimes be atypical and unlikely to recur in the students’ law practices after graduation. Simulation courses complement clinics and field placements by engaging students in a curated set of role-playing exercises intended to expose them to scenarios they will commonly encounter as practicing lawyers. They provide students with the opportunity to practice core lawyering skills and receive feedback on their performance on a regular basis. This article represents the first attempt to propose a set of essential simulation courses that every law school in the United States should offer its students. The timing is right for this proposal both because of the upcoming changes to the content of the bar exam—which will begin in 2026 to assess test takers’ proficiency in lawyering skills in addition to their knowledge of substantive law—and the growing body of empirical data on critical competencies for new lawyers. My goal in developing the curricular recommendations set forth herein is to identify the simulation courses most closely aligned with the lawyering skills that will be tested on the NextGen bar exam and the key competencies that leading studies have found critical to the success of new lawyers. In doing so, I consider the results of a detailed review of the experiential curricula of seventeen ABA-accredited law schools, which revealed both similarities and inconsistencies among the law schools’ current simulation-course portfolios. My analysis yields the following list of simulation courses which will work together well to prepare students for the NextGen exam and their early years of legal practice: (1) advanced legal research, (2) trial practice, (3) appellate advocacy, (4) transactional drafting, (5) alternative dispute resolution, (6) interviewing and counseling, and (7) legal ethics. In addition to clinics and field placements, these courses should constitute the pillars of a law school’s experiential learning program.

Keywords: experiential education, experiential learning, simulation, legal education, bar exam, nextgen bar exam, next generation bar exam, law school curriculum

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Zamoff, Mitchell, The Seven Essential Law School Simulation Courses (April 4, 2024). Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 24-08, Utah Law Review, Forthcoming (Fall 2024), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4789210

Mitchell Zamoff (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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