Saturday, September 29, 2007
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?
UCI’s law school will start with a number of natural advantages: location, resources, and the University of California brand to name only a few. These advantages will virtually guarantee that the school succeeds and begins to climb up the US News Rankings. Thus, my advice focuses not on survival, but on how UCI can help its graduates to stand out and excel in an over-crowded market for law graduates.
I would encourage Dean Chemerinsky to send his students out into the world in their second year. Require them to do a full-time internship, to work in the clinic, or to volunteer their time for an under-served group. This will both give the students insight into what lawyers actually do and create goodwill for the school in the legal community that will ultimately hire your graduates. Use the third year to build on what the students have learned in the real world: Capstone courses emphasizing ethics, skills and critical reasoning will be particularly meaningful to students who have already seen how the law is practiced.
Finally: Assess. It’s rare in law school teaching to step back from what we do and ask whether it’s working or not. Talk to those who hire your graduates; find out what they need and whether they’re getting it. Talk to your graduates; find out if they feel they were adequately prepared for what their jobs ask of them. Don’t be afraid to change what happens in law school based on what you learn.
For all the posts in the series, see here.