Practicums: Teaching the Practical Skills Lawyers Need

Brian Voerding, Learning the Art of Being a Lawyer, Law & Politics Feb./Mar. 2009.

Law students are trained in theory rather than in the art of being a lawyer.  Professor John Sonsteng of William Mitchell College of Law says the best performers of their fields practice their skills.  He advocates for law schools to have students write memos and contracts, try arguments, interview clients, discuss ethics, and learn how to manage small firm finances, rather than read and do blue book exams.  The cornerstone of his Legal Education Renaissance innovation is practicums which are interactive classes with few lectures and formal exams.  Students work together, usually outside the classroom, to solve problems and learn management skills.  He says this is about changing the nature of law schools.  Rather than teach the philosophy of law, the schools should be teaching people [the practical skills necessary] to be lawyers.  Sonsteng wants to start a conversation where academics and practitioners critique and add to his ideas posted on his Legal Education Renaissance Report Web site.

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