From Law School Cafe:
Douglas Kahn has posted an article criticizing the “proliferation of clinical and other experiential courses” in legal education. These courses, he argues, reduce the number of “doctrinal” courses that students take, leaving them “ill-prepared to practice law as soon after graduation as law firms would like.” The TaxProf Blog posted a summary of the article, and a baker’s dozen of readers have offered pro and con comments.
It’s an old debate, one that has bristled for more than 50 years. The discussion doesn’t surprise me, but Professor Kahn’s ignorance of clinical education does. His bold assertions about clinics reveal little familiarity with the actual operation of those courses. Let’s examine some of Kahn’s claims.
“[S]kills in legal reasoning, analysis, and statutory construction are best learned in doctrinal courses . . . .”
Seminar sessions in a clinic “likely are more focused on the delivery of legal services than on the analysis of legal issues and policies.”
“Much of th[e] time [in clinical courses] can be spent in ways that have little or no educational value (such as sitting in court waiting for a case to be called).”
“Another reason [to prefer simulation courses] is that the instructor in a simulation course can control the issues that will arise rather than . . . depend on what issues a client brings.”
One can, as Professor Kahn suggests, debate the appropriate balance among doctrinal, experiential, and (I would add) interdisciplinary, perspective, and seminar courses in law school. But to have an intelligent debate, we need to know the content of those course types. Professor Kahn’s article reflects many of the stereotypes that educators hold about clinical and other experiential courses. Let’s learn the facts before we begin to negotiate: that’s a key lesson we teach in clinics.