Sunday, February 17, 2013

Brad Wendel on the ABA on Legal Education - LEGAL ETHICS FORUM

Cornell law prof Brad Wendel comments on the recent Times account of the ABA discussions of the legal education crisis.  Boiled down the main thrusts are its too damn expensive, and its not practical enough.  Some push for more practicing lawyers as (low paid) adjuncts.  Wendel comments on the merits of academia, and emphasizes that teaching and practical understanding are overlapping but "distinct" skills.  I've been trying to become a better teacher for 17 years.  It's hard! Certainly my 30 years of practice and engagement in the bar gives me a certain kind of practical orientation, and the confidence of knowing how certain things are done.  But my academic research gives me a perspective that one does not have as a practitioner tied usually to a single jurisdiction and a relatively narrow swath of cases. - GWC
Legal Ethics Forum: The ABA on Legal Education: by Brad Wendel
"Speaking of the disjunction between the academy and practice, the article quotes a retired partner at Williams and Connolly, teaching as an adjunct at GW, calling for the increased use of adjuncts.  I tend to bristle a bit at the assumption that any experienced lawyer could be a good teacher, as though there is nothing to effective teaching beyond knowing the underlying subject matter.  Some lawyers may be good teachers, but the skill sets involved in these two activities are distinct, if overlapping.  Many lawyers who wish to serve as adjuncts may not have thought about issues such as:  What is the right mix of providing information vs. engaging the students in discussion?  Do you cold-call or take volunteers (and what are the pros and cons of each)?  How do you balance responsiveness to student questions vs. the need to cover the material you assigned for the day?  What do you think about PowerPoint and iClickers? 
A more subtle, but very important skill is breaking down something you understand completely and explaining it to someone who is coming to it for the first time.  I've been teaching torts for 14 years and, believe me, understanding something like proximate cause or assumption of risk is very different from explaining it.  Then there are all of the issues related to exams:  How should they be structured (essay, multiple-choice, etc.), how broad or deep should the coverage be, what is the right blend of issue-spotting and analysis, how do you compare different answers for grading purposes, and so on.  You get better at all of these things with experience, but it does not follow that experience at being a lawyer necessarily translates into being an effective teacher. "

'via Blog this'

No comments:

Post a Comment