Beg, Borrow, or Steal: Ten Lessons Law Schools Can Learn from Other Educational Programs in Evaluating Their Curriculum
Law Review Article
educational psychology and metacognition, teaching methods
It is indisputable that law schools are clamoring for and working toward change in their curriculum. Generally, higher education institutions have been acknowledged to have a “responsibility to endeavor to prepare graduates who are able to manage and respond effectively to change and its demands, challenges and tensions.” However, despite criticisms and active discussions regarding curriculum reform for 25 years, law school curriculum reform has been seen as tedious and frustrating, resulting through the years in only modest changes.
While in the past, law schools have not had strong incentives to change, things may be different now. In our most recent economic times, tinkering with the law curriculum may have been a luxury. Now, many law schools are realizing that they are proverbially “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Law schools are seeking to change legal training—not just incorporating more practical skills, but really thinking about doing business differently. That is a vast undertaking for legal faculties, many of whom are without direction other than their own experiences.
Our system of law is obviously known for its reliance on precedents. Legal education has modeled that through the years, taking a very “stare decisis” approach to our educational product. However, in the law, when a new case comes to a court which demonstrates that the law they have been faithfully applying for years is no longer serving its purpose, courts change course. But before inventing radical new courses on which to embark however, courts look to other jurisdictions or situations in which they might borrow a method or process and develop a new plan accordingly.
The time has come for legal education to do the same. The current crisis in legal education should be demonstrating to legal educators that their decisions should not stand. Legal educators should be looking at other programs in higher education, other programs turning out professionals, and those with years of experience studying education, as “persuasive authority” to help us determine what the right path is for legal education. While this article is not the first to suggest that other educational theories need to be incorporated into legal education, these ten suggestions, ‘begged, borrowed and stolen” from other areas of education should be considered by every institution as part of its new plan for legal education in the 21st Century.