How Multiple Cooks Make Broth: Decision Making and Organizational Clients

Document Type


Publication Date

June 2011

Conference / Event Title

34th Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Conference on Clinical Legal Education


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.

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