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-View Conference on Clinical Legal Education and Conference on the Future of the Law School Curriculum Workbooklet-

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2011 Conference on Clinical Legal Education
Date: June 12 — 17, 2011
Location: Sheraton Seattle Hotel

We are at a pivotal moment in the history of legal education.  Forces outside and within the academy are creating a powerful impetus for legal educators to reconsider the law school curriculum.  Clinical educators have a critical role to play in this process. As AALS President Reese Hansen said in his letter to the ABA Standards Review Committee dated June 1, 2010, clinical courses are the culminations of the substantive courses in the curriculum, reinforcing and extending the learning in substantive courses.  Through clinical courses, Hansen said, “students typically develop problem-solving skills, learn to exercise critical judgment, and enhance analytical thinking as they bring substantive law to bear on practice experience.  They represent some of the kinds of integrative education that are highly praised in the Carnegie Report.”  As clinical legal educators, we owe it to our students, our law schools, our non-clinical colleagues, and ourselves to review and reconsider what we do in clinical teaching, what we can teach our non-clinical colleagues, and what they can teach us, all with a view to improving the law school curriculum.

The conference this year will take place over four days in mid-June.  We will spend the first two days of the conference (June 13 and 14) with non-clinical faculty and deans in a joint curriculum and clinical conference designed to give us an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas about the law school curriculum on a macro level.  During this phase of the conference we will use plenary sessions and facilitated small groups to examine five topics: what are the core values of a 21st century legal education; how can we understand and teach about practicing law across borders and cultures; how can we use experiential learning to enrich the curriculum; how can we prepare students to be ready for the profession; and how can we achieve institutional change.  The sessions will be designed to explore both competencies (e.g., critical thinking, problem solving, professional judgment) and methods for achieving them (e.g., opportunities for students to merge doctrine, skills, and professional identity, to deal with situations in which client problems, facts, legal rules, and ethical principles are fluid and ill-defined, and to see how law and theory function in practice). An overall goal of this part of the conference is to identify and explore how to achieve the curricular changes that will promote learning for transfer – learning that will maximize students’ ability to function as effective and ethical professionals in unfamiliar settings and under circumstances that we cannot now predict.

Throughout these first days of the conference, the plenary presentations and small group discussions will take place against the backdrop of an ongoing role-play of a law school curriculum committee.  This committee will be consulting regularly with its faculty (i.e., the conference participants), and will be discussing and assessing the ideas put forward at the conference, modeling faculty decision-making processes, and ultimately presenting a curriculum proposal for the attendees to consider.  All presentations and small group discussions, including the meetings and presentations of the “curriculum committee,” will include a mix of clinical and non-clinical perspectives.

We will spend the next two days of the conference (June 15 and 16) on our own as clinical faculty, reflecting on what we learned during the first two days, and drilling down into one of the core components of clinical legal education: problem solving. Through plenary sessions, concurrent sessions, and small group meetings, we will examine four areas of problem-solving:  (1) understanding the content and context of legal problems; (2) diagnosing or defining legal problems; (3) making decisions in the context of developing client-centered solutions; and finally, (4) integrating what students have learned in law school and transferring that learning into practice.

On June 17, there will be a Clinic Directors’ Workshop addressing three main topics: (1) the status of proposed changes to the ABA accreditation standards with respect to security of position, and strategies for responding effectively to the proposed changes; (2) the recommendation made by the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education’s Task Force on the Status of Clinicians and the Legal Academy for a unitary tenure track that includes clinical faculty, in light of the proposed changes to the accreditation standards, and (3) effective strategies for enabling junior and senior clinical faculty to engage in scholarship, share their work, and receive helpful critique from both clinic and non-clinic colleagues.


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