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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ben Barton's Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky: Adopt the Business School Case Method

Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question:  What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine:

Barton_2Benjamin H. Barton (Director of Clinical Programs and Associate Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law; Author, Is There a Correlation between Scholarly Productivity, Scholarly Influence and Teaching Effectiveness in American Law Schools? An Empirical Study):

I’m currently writing an essay for a Tennessee Law Review Symposium advocating that law schools adopt the business school case method. Business school cases are generally real life problems. They ask the students to read the files and then perform actual management tasks. The students also generally work in teams and are graded on their actual work throughout the semester. The students thus spend their time learning how to actually manage, instead of only learning dry management theory.

There are several advantages to the business school case method. The business school case method is much more focused on the actual process of being a business manager. By comparison, the law school case method focuses on the work of judges, not lawyers.

The team aspect of business schools is also preferable to traditional law school classes. Some lawyers practice solo, but a majority work in groups, and working on a team is a necessary (and largely untaught) legal skill. Business schools also give students more regular feedback on their work, because each project/case is graded along the way.

Business school grading is also much more rational than law school grading (and better approximates the experiences of MBA students when they graduate). This is because MBA students are graded on the strength of their actual work, not a single exam at the end of the semester. In sum, trading case methods with MBA programs might vastly improve the first year, and legal education as a whole.

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