In attempting to predict and prescribe the future, my vision of the recent history of legal education differs from Professor Moliterno's in certain relevant ways.
I graduated from Law School in 1967. I learned largely through doctrinal courses that delivered steady training in thinking like a lawyer and information about areas of law. These courses exposed me and my classmates to legal lingo and to the standard types of legal arguments. We learned, largely by hearing the teacher and our fellow students, to make verbal moves and to see the strengths and limitations of others' argumentation skills and techniques. We also learned a great deal about how to argue by dissecting the opinions of appellate judges.
In the three decades since I graduated, legal education has changed – improved, in my opinion – in two different ways. First, law professors have broadened and deepened the theoretical stances from which legal dialogue and legal writing are evaluated and criticized. Many of us do not see an independent science of law. We instead consider legal questions as economists, philosophers, theologians, political activists, sociologists, and political scientists. Such professorial viewpoints expose students to many ways of thinking about questions that arise in class. Although their training is often superficial, they do see, and some even become proficient in, various ways to think and argue about legal questions.
Second, curricula have incorporated practice opportunities for students. Columbia Law School employs ten percent of its faculty as clinical professors whose full-time job is to supervise eight students each per semester. Various clinical courses guide the students into the profession by taking steps that resemble medical students' first practice experiences. Also at Columbia, recent years have seen a substantial increase in simulation-based instruction. Columbia's curriculum has expanded to include such things as: the week-long intensive ethics experience for third year students; many trial practice sections; and four sections of a simulation-based course in negotiation. Additional efforts are currently on the drawing board.
Comment on Moliterno, Legal Education, Experiential Education, and Professional Responsibility,
Wm. & Mary L. Rev.
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