Document Type


Publication Date


Conference / Event Title

Association of American Law Schools (AALS) 2012 Conference on Clinical Legal Education - Takeaways for Clinical Teaching and Assessment in a Changing Environment

Conference / Event Location

Los Angeles, CA


The conference’s overarching goal is to provide clinical educators with concrete lessons, examples, and ideas for improving teaching, student assessment, and clinical program self-evaluation in the face of a changing legal profession and world. Plenary sessions, concurrent sessions, and working groups will be structured to emphasize and produce takeaways for improving the teaching of lawyering skills and professional values, incorporating reflection components into externships/field placements and in-house clinical courses, successfully meeting the teaching challenges of today, designing effective student assessment instruments, and engaging in meaningful self-evaluation of clinical programs.

The legal profession and needs of law school graduates have been rapidly changing. The last five years have brought profound changes in the legal profession, including law firm downsizing, a weak legal employment market, and an increasing call for practice-ready law graduates. At the same time, the needs of our client communities continue to evolve, as do our students’ goals and expectations for their clinical experience. These changes have placed, and will continue to place, more demands on clinical legal education within law schools.This conference will explore what these changes mean for clinical faculty while providing attendees with concrete tools they can use at their home institutions.

The conference this year will take place over three and one-half days and will address the changing environment by examining three major themes: (1) setting goals and structuring in-house and externship/field placement clinical courses in an environment in which student goals, client needs, and the profession itself are changing; (2) developing effective techniques for teaching skills, given how the practice of law has evolved and expanded in the 21st century; and (3) measuring the effectiveness of our teaching by learning from different clinical models (simulations, externships/field placements, and in-house clinics).

There will be a plenary for each of these major themes, and presenters will include faculty who focus on externships/field placements, in-house clinics, and simulation skills teaching as well as experts from other disciplines. A subtheme of the conference will be to compare and contrast what occurs in each type of clinical pedagogy and what we can learn from each other as legal educators in our common enterprise to prepare students for the practice of law.

Concurrent sessions will explore issues roughly broken into six categories: general clinical pedagogy; teaching and assessing specific lawyering skills and professional values; sessions with externship/field placement emphasis; sessions with in-house clinic emphasis; professional development for faculty; and sessions addressing diverse areas such as case and data management in clinics, and preparing students for today’s legal market.

The conference structure will have fewer large plenary sessions, and concurrent sessions will be structured to run in tracks (e.g., in-house and externship/field placement tracks) to minimize conflicts within areas of interest. There will also be three slots on different days of the conference for AALS Clinical Section committee meetings and one time slot for affinity group meetings that are not duplicative of working groups. None of these meetings will conflict with conference sessions.While the emphasis of the plenaries and concurrent sessions will be on concrete tools faculty will be able to use, the sessions will also explore the underlying educational theories necessary to understand, modify, and develop these tools. Working groups will be organized to examine topics generated by the plenaries and to help answer questions about the effective use of the takeaways in the context of the teaching we do.

In addition to the general conference, there will be a special session and orientation to clinical teaching and the conference for new clinical faculty the morning of the first day of the conference, and clinic administrators with have a working group and sessions geared to their interests. Also, during the conference, there will be a time slot set aside for multiple concurrent sessions for works-in-progress.