Moving Beyond the Headlines

In recent months, the legal profession and legal education has come under attack by newspapers, bloggers, and even lawsuits in some cases. The fact is, unemployed law school graduates are unsatisfied with legal education which is entirely understandable given the level of debt many impose on themselves relying on a job that may not come.

It is very easy to be consumed by the headlines.  Just today a New York Post Op Ed was published entitled Do law schools defraud students? The article attacks law school employment statistics, in the same way that we have seen so many times since the economy turned south. This blog has posted about some of the articles in the past.

The ABA Journal also has an article by Debra Cassens Weiss entitled LSAC Considers Role Confirming Law School LSAT and Grade Stats, ABA Journal, discussing the Law School Admissions Council’s response to reports that two law school had inflated statistics about their incoming class.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly cares about the legal profession and legal education enough to focus on fixing problems rather than dwelling on them, or worse, ignoring them.  Stagnation in legal education is partially to blame for dissatisfaction.  Using the same courses and structures without focusing on practical skills leads to graduates that are not prepared to be productive lawyers.

For sure, law schools cannot teach students everything they need to know, but we can create engaged classrooms, make sure law students have met foundational learning objectives, and integrate practice into the classroom. We can ask students to engage in roleplaying to start developing skills and habits for handling the ethical issues they will face; we can prepare them for client interaction.

Not all change has to be drastic, and we do not have to aim for perfection right away. We need steps. Incremental change. New ideas that are formed through collaboration between the clinical, doctrinal, practical, lawyering and legal writing faculty.

One place to take the first step is at the  Center for Excellence in Law Teaching’s (CELT’s) inaugural conference on Setting and Assessing Learning Objectives from Day One that will bring together faculty from across the curriculum to explore how to set and assess foundational objectives for law students.

We encourage collaborative presentations from faculty teaching throughout the curriculum including those who teach in the first year, the upper level curriculum, the legal writing program, the lawyering program, and the clinical program. We also encourage collaboration between those who teach large doctrinal classes, perspective seminars, or advanced subject matter courses, with those who teach in clinic, in field placement, or in a capstone course. We welcome in particular those teachers and administrators who have experimented with school wide attempts to define and assess objectives

Please submit the presentation proposal to krama@albanylaw.edu by October 15, 2011.

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