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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Universal Clinical Legal Education: Necessary And Feasible

ClinicalRobert R. Kuehn (Washington University), Universal Clinical Legal Education: Necessary and Feasible, 53 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y ___ (2017):

Although bar officials and most legal educators agree that law students need to learn not just to “think like a lawyer” but also the professional skills needed to “do like a lawyer,” legal education lags far behind other professions in the clinical training it provides its graduates. The justification usually given for such lack of training is the claim that it is not financially feasible for law schools to ensure that every student graduate with a clinical experience.

This Essay challenges this mistaken justification.

It first summarizes the numerous reports and studies showing the need for clinical training for law students. It then demonstrates empirically that a mandated law clinic or externship experience for all J.D. graduates is both financially feasible and readily attainable by all schools. Reviewing data certified by law schools to the ABA as complete and accurate, analysis shows that schools providing such clinical experiences for all graduates do not charge more in tuition nor raise their tuition at rates higher than schools not providing these opportunities. The Essay also demonstrates that implementing a clinical experience requirement would be relatively easy for most school, as data show that over eighty percent could provide a clinical experience today for each of its graduates without adding any additional faculty or clinical course. It concludes that it is not costs, but the will of law school and bar officials, that is preventing students from graduating with clinical training and causing so many graduates to be ill-prepared for the practice of law.

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There is clinical / experiential legal education and then there is worthwhile clinical / experiential legal education. The two are worlds apart and ensuring that the latter does not become the former requires a certain degree of proactive monitoring and quality assurance on the part of law schools that most will blanche at. Most of use who aren't double-Ivy types are at least passingly familiar with and aware of horror stories involving externships / internships / co-ops. The student is unpaid while the lawyer(s) bill(s) out their time. The student is continually prodded for their student Wexis account log-ins. The student is a de facto secretary as opposed to an apprentice lawyer, toiling away answering the phones and performing menial chores. These are very common experiences, and simply mandating that all law students must cycle through Joe Bob and Associates' Law Emporium above the haberdashery will not be sufficient as to provide actual experiential legal education. The legal profession is at least as rife with exploitative internship experiences as any other segment of the workforce, and any attempt to mandate such experiences as part of the education needs to account for this reality.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 11, 2017 11:50:08 AM