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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rodriguez: Unbundling Legal Education

UnbundlingDan Rodriguez (Dean, Northwestern), Unbundling Legal Education:

The ever growing strategic focus on legal education for non-lawyers builds on an emerging insight about the nature of legal education. I would describe this as follows: Legal education consists of three large sticks in a general bundle; one is the development of lawyerly skills, what has long been described as educating students to “think like a lawyer.” Circular on its own terms, to be sure, but the idea captures the admixture of reasoning, communication, and advocacy that is characteristic of professionals who work in the legal domain on behalf of clients. ...

Next is the development of skills essential to engaging in the practice of law. Experiential learning is at the heart of this; yet, much of what we aim to do throughout the curriculum, including the so-called doctrinal classes, is (or at least ought to be) channeled in the direction and service of enhancing the ability of students to practice law. ...

Finally, we aim to provide substantive content, starting with the foundation laid in the first year and extended, cumulatively, through the coursework provided, sometimes required, sometimes elective, in the upper division. ...

What our efforts to train non-lawyers do, in essence, is to unbundle legal education. We look at ways of developing some relevant skills in individuals who will not practice law, but who will deploy law and work with lawyers on accomplishing their professional objectives. This is skills training to be sure, but it is the training in skills that map not only legal practice, but onto the professional domain in which these non-lawyers operate and function. Moreover, we aim to give these individuals substantive legal knowledge, knowledge which can and ought to be applied in settings in which law and the legal environment matters to their field, to their performance, and to their enterprise. ... Unbundling legal education in the sense I describe it here means providing not “law school lite” for these students but, rather, a coherent structure of training that is suited to the goals and tied squarely to the objectives of the professionals who operate in a space in which law is relevant and, indeed, omnipresent.

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