The Changing Nature of Legal Education
Klint W. Alexander, Ph.D. J.D. University of Wyoming College of Law Laramie, Wyoming
In recent years, the law school experience has changed significantly in order to better prepare law students for the real world. Employers increasingly are looking for students who have mastered the traditional curriculum requirements, which consist of predominantly doctrinal courses, and who have hands-on experience practicing law while in law school. In fact, many young lawyers argue that legal education should focus more on experiential learning and employment while in law school, especially after the first year.
In the old days, the law school curriculum encompassed mostly doctrinal courses taught in a large classroom setting by a professor resembling Charles Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase.” The traditional model of teaching focused largely on core bar-related courses, the Socratic Method, and thick textbooks. The ultimate goal was to prepare students for the bar exam, and the first year curriculum was the most important set of courses to study towards this end.
As a result of the 2008 financial crisis and the decline in law applications since then, the focus of law schools has changed. In a buyer’s market, students prefer a legal educational experience that they can put on a C.V. and that enables them to practice law while in law school to impress future employers. Students are choosing law schools based on the availability of specific clinical opportunities and the robustness of these experiences. Law schools are catering to this demand by creating clinic programs and building new facilities to house these legal clinics. At many law schools, experiential learning is now the sine qua non of legal education. The American Bar Association has reinforced this trend too by issuing a requirement that all law students obtain a minimum of six credit hours in experiential learning courses in order to graduate.
Recognized by the National Jurist as a top law school for practical training, the University of Wyoming College of Law excels at providing its students...