Are The Walls Coming Down?

Happened upon Eugene Volockh’s blog post on peer feedback today, though he didn’t use that term.  Struck me as  great example both of the way “the walls are coming down”  in legal education and of the distance we have to go.  Volokh,a high profile libertarian 1st Amendment Scholar, is launching a  First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic this fall.

Two possible cracks in the walls suggested by the post, and their limitations, and a crack that wasn’t one:

1. Classroom v. clinic:   Since he began teaching in 1994 at UCLA at the ripe age of 26,  Volokh has taught. courses such as Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and Torts.  This appears to be his first foray into clinical teaching.  Not surprisingly, given that he went into law school teaching directly from appellate clerkships, his clinic is focused on a narrow skill long addressed in legal education– appellate brief writing.  And his clinic will operate in a context — amicus briefs — that does not require traditional client contact.  Nonetheless, it’s an example of what I hope is a growing trend, not limited to appellate clinics.  (My hope is fed in part by the example of my colleague Anita Ramasastry. In winter 14 she will co-teach an exciting new international human rights clinic focused on preventing, or remedying, human rights violations by businesses.)

2. . Intellectual v. Interpersonal Skills: Teamwork skills, such as the “ability to cooperate productively,” are a classic example of the interpersonal skills that are too often denigrated as “soft” and therefore neglected in legal education.  Perhaps  significant that Volokh, an intellectual prodigy — B.S. at age 15, former techie — recognizes the value of these skills, though not clear from the post he is aware of work done on teaching teamwork by people like Barbara Glesner Fines and Sophie Sparow..  

Prof. Volokh informs me that the the point below was based on incorrect information — apparently the UCLA and Southwestern efforts developed independently.

3.  Elite v. non-elite law schools: Volokh doesn’t mention it, but the offering will apparently be a collaborative effort involving both Southwestern Law School, though Southwestern refers to it as a practicum,* and UCLA.  That a sturdy wall remains between elite and non-elite schools is, no doubt, evidenced by the the fact that  neither school’s clinic website trumpets the collaboration.

*Terminology — a subject for another day.

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