Do You Hear the Knocking at the Door? A Therapeutic Approach to Enriching Clinical Legal Education Comes Calling

29 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2007

See all articles by Greg Baker

Greg Baker

William & Mary Law School


William and Mary Law School, a public institution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, its roots deeply entrenched in the archives of legal learning, might not be a place you would expect to see an externship with the heading "Therapeutic Courts Practice." However, the law school as part of its mission to produce graduates who are not simply powerful advocates and wise counselors, but also honorable and concerned human beings and good citizens has taken up the cause of Therapeutic Jurisprudence and problem-solving courts.

In Part I of my paper, I discuss the basic tenets of Therapeutic Jurisprudence and how it integrates quite nicely with clinical education. Part II is reserved for a discussion of problem-solving courts, sometimes called therapeutic courts. Further, I describe the close relationship that exists between Therapeutic Jurisprudence and problem-solving courts, and how the two complement each other. Part III introduces the William & Mary Law School model of a therapeutic courts externship and how students are introduced to the principles of Therapeutic Jurisprudence. It is here that the nuts and bolts of the course are described in some detail. This part also serves as an opportunity to discuss Virginia's Drug Treatment Court Program, including the use of juvenile, family and adult drug treatment courts of the Commonwealth in placing externs. It is here that I also pay particular attention to the reactions of students to the "therapeutic" externship experience. My hope with the student reports is to convey a very consistent and important message heard from my students: Therapeutic Jurisprudence has a real place in the law school curriculum, and is especially useful in the clinical and legal skills area.

I have devoted the major theme of this paper to the creation and implementation of an externship devoted solely to the practice of therapeutic courts. It is my hope that others will consider doing the same. In its relatively short life span it has proven exciting, invigorating and stimulating to students. In evaluating any new program or course, student reaction, is one of the most important considerations. As good vibes continue to flow from the experience, good will for Therapeutic Jurisprudence continues to build with law school administration and faculty, many of whom were skeptics in the first place.

At William & Mary Law School, I'm grateful that when opportunity came knocking, someone was listening. To some, opportunity is seen as a risk or chance. To others, it is viewed similarly but with an added sense of advancement for the common good. The opportunities that are present with a program in Therapeutic Jurisprudence and an externship in Therapeutic Courts Practice are endless. As we all labor in the vineyards to enrich the lives of our student's legal education, let us not be afraid to do what we teach our students to do, think and discover the possibilities and then in turn, seize on the new opportunities of the day.

Keywords: clinical legal education, drug treatment courts, criminal law

Suggested Citation

Baker, Gregory, Do You Hear the Knocking at the Door? A Therapeutic Approach to Enriching Clinical Legal Education Comes Calling. Whittier Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Gregory Baker (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

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