What is legal education? Why does it matter—to us, to students, to the world that depends upon people educated in our certain way?
One of my Summer projects is to redesign my law school courses. My goal is to make them more accessible, meaningful, and user-friendly for students—my end-users.
And so, I have been thinking a lot about legal education more broadly. How do my courses fit in with the larger educational design of the multi-year, 21st Century law school experience that we collectively provide to future lawyers?
One fundamental part of the #makelawbetter movement is the drive to #makelawschoolbetter. We might disagree sometimes about what “better” will look like, but we agree that getting to “better” will require us to center the needs and experiences of our end-users: our students.
When educating students for a profession, students ought to be the primary—but not the only—focus of our innovations, creative interventions, and policy changes. They are a diverse, differently-situated group of humans. This takes time and intentional effort.
As we get to know our students better, we need to supplement that knowledge with data about what end-users of the system of legal justice require. What will future clients and the public interest demand from our future-lawyer students?
The role we play in all of this—the way we define our work and articulate the core mission of legal education to insiders and outsiders alike—matters.
So I ask again: What are we doing here? And: why are we doing it?
If we decide we are teaching students how to obtain expert-level knowledge about an inert thing called law, we will judge our current system—and any attempts to make it better—in a certain way.
But, by contrast: if we decide our mission is more complex….if we decide we are not teaching a thing, but a whole human person: a particular, expert way that some people can know, and think, and speak, and listen, and feel, and do, and be…if we decide our focus is on educating human persons to competently know, value, and do things that are necessary to provide a bundle of human services, only some of which can be labeled “legal”?
If we decide that the way we do these things—not just the ability to do them—matters, too?
Well. In that case, we will evaluate our current system—and our work to reform it—in radically different ways.
The framing of our work matters.
So I’m asking, one last time. Legal educators:
What are we doing here? And why are we doing it?