Challenges in the New Law School Year

            Suddenly, the semester is upon us! Where did the summer go? Why didn’t I complete all my “projects” – why am I not fully prepared for the new semester?  As I work hard to prepare for a new semester of teaching and learning and experimenting, I realize that I need to turn the focus from “me, me, me” to “them, them, them”.

            And in doing so, I cannot help but worry about the challenges in store for the new crop of law students walking through our front doors. How will the legal profession have changed by the time they graduate?  What impact will technology and globalization have on their lives – negative or positive? How will employers evaluate young attorneys? What financial burdens will these students bear and how can they create sound personal lives built on large debt?  Will law schools truly be able to prepare them for what lies ahead and assist them in achieving a rewarding professional life?

            I find it daunting to think about these challenges.  As this generation enters a difficult job market for legal services, legal educators have more responsibility than ever to provide students with a foundation for success, formative assessment of where they stand on the continuum of professional development, and pragmatic understanding of the new legal employment world.  How can we possibly educate our students so that they graduate with the amount of core knowledge, proficiency of skill and understanding of professional identity which the current legal employer is seeking?  

            After many years of teaching, I have learned that I can’t solve every problem and can’t achieve every goal in one class, one course, or one semester.  However, each time I revisit my course goals, improve my syllabus, inform myself about what today’s students need, and work towards curriculum revision, I better the learning outcome – even if it’s only incrementally. And even when the experiment fails, the “hoped- for- learning-epiphany” evaporates, I have learned that students appreciate faculty members who care enough to revisit what they have taught before and who worry about students’ futures.  Law students usually demonstrate that appreciation by working harder and engaging with the material more deeply, thus, improving their own knowledge, skills and understanding.

            Good Luck to all you law teachers and law students as the academic year begins.  Tell us here at the BP Blog, what you are hoping for or concerned about at this pivotal juncture in legal education?

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