According to the Carnegie Foundation report on legal education, law schools don’t do enough to prepare students for the realities of law practice. The release of the report prompted a discussion of what could be done to address this issue. It is probably too early to talk about the best practices, but here is a round-up of a few interesting programs.
Law School Innovation offers a series on the use of simulations in legal education. Gene Koo discusses Stanford’s simulation-based courses that teach students “to think like a client” and better understand the client’s needs: “Through simulations, law students work in teams with students from other graduate schools to solve a fully-described, substantive problem.” For example, law students work with engineering students on a simulated patent infringement case.
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law is about to launch its new Law Firm Program for third-year students. The program offers a series of courses that simulate the practice of law in a large law firm. Students are divided into groups corresponding to different practice areas.
More and more law schools are establishing Supreme Court clinics where law students help attorneys develop real cases that go to the Supreme Court. If the justices agree to hear the case, the students get a chance to work on the briefs and oral arguments, and even go to Washington to watch the justices in action.
Massachusetts Bar Association offers Job Shadow Day when students can “shadow” attorneys through their work day.
The challenge of developing “soft skills” is not unique to law schools. MBA programs are grappling with this problem as well. The Wall Street Journal reports on how M.B.A. Programs Hone ‘Soft Skills’ (need subscription). Some MBA programs borrow soft-skill training techniques from the corporate world, including coaching, personality assessments and peer feedback. Perhaps, law school can also benefit from those approaches.
What do you think current law students can do to enhance their practical skills even if their law schools are too slow to catch up? Do you have a personal development plan?