Interdisciplinary Collaborative Education in Law Schools

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to host a group of educators who are interested in interdisciplinary collaborative education in the form of partnerships between law schools and the health professions at a conference held at Georgia State University College of Law.  Antoinette Sedillo Lopez recently posted about collaborating with other departments in your university, which is a great place to start. 

For those of us interested in partnering with the medical profession, however, the existence of a medical school within our university is not necessarily required.  There is no doubt that collaborating with professors and students from different institutions can be challenging, but law schools are doing it in a number of different contexts.  For example, our clinic is engaged in collaboration with both Emory University School of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine, to hold joint classes between law students and medical students and residents. 

Even great distances have shown to be little deterrence to professionals who truly want to participate in interdisciplinary collaboration, as Liz Tobin Tyler of Roger Williams University School of Law can attest.  Her law students commute approximately one hour to share a a classroom with students from Brown Medical School who are taking a seminar entitled, “Law, Medicine and Ethics.”

The learning benefits of interdisciplinary education have been described in different ways.  The encouragement and inculcation of synthetic thinking, the holistic approach to client and patient care and the understanding that clients do not live in a vacuum, the creation of a new generation of creative problem-solving professionals, and improved outcomes for clients and patients are a few. 

What does it mean to students?  Consider these comments from one of my students, reflecting on her experiences sharing case rounds with residents and participating in patient rounds at a hospital:

Through each of these multi-disciplinary interactions, I form a more complete picture of how my clients’ illnesses affect their daily lives.  I learn more about where my clients and their physicians are coming from.  Most importantly, I am connected with resources that provide evidence to help legally establish medical conditions.  Each of these things makes me better able to serve my clients.  Medical educators and law professors should seek to promote multi-disciplinary interactions among their students as much as possible – patients, clients, students, and even the professors will benefit from such collaborations.

One conference participant shared that he initially did not believe that such a collaboration was possible because of the location of his law school and the absence of a medical school nearby.  He confessed to asking himself, “Why do this?”  After hearing about examples from other schools, he ended up asking, “Why not?”

Are there other ways that we can incorporate interdisciplinary experiences for ourselves or students to benefit our teaching and student learning?

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2 Responses

  1. I regularly hold classes with law, forensic sicence and criminology students at my univerity as we supply service teaching to these departments – it also helps to cut my class hours sometimes!
    Last year, I piloted some online discussion boards to bring students together from different jurisdictions – more than the hour commute! They found it really useful to communicate (albeit not face to face) with other students to discuss a common seminar problem, but applying different legal solutions depending on the laws of their home country.
    If anyone wishes to take part, the subject is a wide range of healthcare law issues and runs Feb-April inclusive.

  2. I was privleded to attend this conference! Lisa Bliss, Charity Scott and their colleagues did a fantastic job of gathering folks interested in Medical/ Legal collaborations.

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