I. Introduction: No More Silos
One job of a dean is to build bridges among constituencies.1 While many deans today focus their efforts on external constituencies, facilitating connections among faculty groups remains a vital and important function. One challenge when a dean attempts to bring groups together is the "silo mentality"—a mindset in which individuals or groups perceive that, by hoarding information and resources, they will elevate themselves and their positions. My slogan, on the other hand, is "no more silos." Law schools are educational institutions. For most, our mission is to provide students with an outstanding legal education. To achieve this goal, all groups must share knowledge and information openly and collaborate in ways that will improve the education we offer our students.
Two faculty groups that have much to share are legal writing professors and clinicians. While we have our differences, they pale in comparison to the complementary methods we use and the goals we set for our students. We want our students to understand how to apply the law to real-world situations. We want them to excel in analysis and synthesis. We want them to develop interdisciplinary problem-solving skills and the judgment necessary to represent clients competently. We want them to be professional, ethical, and civil.
With these similarities in mind, below are several thoughts, from a decanal perspective, about how legal writing and clinical faculty might collaborate in ways that will improve students' educational experiences, advance both fields, and help law schools achieve their important missions. Of course, initiatives that might work well at one school might not fit the dynamics of another. We should, therefore, view these possibilities along a cooperation continuum and select the place on that continuum where our individual schools might start.
II. Ideas for Collaboration
A. Lead efforts to articulate and assess professional
As institutions, law schools have not been great innovators in defining the professional competencies our students should possess at graduation or developing effective methods to assess whether students have achieved those competencies. Although some have dared to be different, most have been content to use curricula and assessment techniques that date back generations.2 And most have been hesitant to define core competencies beyond those identified in the MacCrate Report.
I sense, however, that change is imminent. Our professional and regional accreditors are pushing for outcomes assessment,3 the American Bar Association recently amended Chapter 3 of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools regarding "Program of Legal Education,"4 and if U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has her way, outcomes and accountability will be the new touchstones in higher education.5
As legal educators, we must teach students how to perform. Performance—or competency—requires, among other things, mastery of a specific body of knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge. It is possible to visualize this concept in terms of a mathematical formula—P(K, A)—in which performance is a function of knowledge and ability.6
As legal writing and clinical professors, we are ideal candidates to lead the effort to define and assess professional competencies. As a group, we often arrive in academia with significant practical experience, and we tend to maintain strong ties with the bench and bar. We therefore have a keen understanding about what the legal system needs and expects from our recent graduates. In addition, because we usually work with students in individual and small-group settings, we have the privilege of watching students closely as they progress through our programs. This proximity permits us to see clearly their struggles and triumphs, strengths and deficiencies, misunderstandings and misperceptions, reactions to and use of feedback, and, when we’re lucky, their transformation from novice to professional.
Legal writing and clinical courses provide natural laboratories to allow students to mix doctrine and skills. They are places where students can experiment with applying legal doctrine to clients' cases and communicating, in writing and orally, about those cases. They are the epitome of P(K, A).
We also have been leaders in innovative teaching and assessment techniques. Sophie Sparrow's work on rubrics7 and Mary Beth Beazley's work on integrating legal writing pedagogy into the "casebook" classroom8 are just two examples of such innovation from the legal writing field. In addition, leaders in both the legal writing and clinical fields have devoted significant thought and resources to develop best practices for their respective areas.9 As such, we have already mastered the types of processes necessary to transform entire curricula—and, eventually, all of legal education.
Articulating and assessing competencies is difficult work. Unfortunately, most law professors and administrators are not trained in education theory or assessment. For this reason, we need to build bridges to individuals and organizations with this type of expertise. But, we also need to place our own skills on the proverbial table. Transformative processes require leaders who can collaborate effectively, build coalitions, be persuasive, and marshal resources. Although we might still lack status at some schools, we are champions of collaboration and advocacy. Over the past ten to fifteen years, we have been among the most effective change agents on campus. Because of us, most students learn legal writing in small sections taught by full-time professionals. Because of us, students often receive graded academic credit for legal writing courses. Because of us, all schools offer some type of clinical experience for students. Because of us, students have the opportunity to participate in meaningful interscholastic advocacy competitions. Because of us, students today have more upper-level writing, drafting, and simulation experiences available than ever before.
When approaching a task that seems too large and overwhelming, we must take the advice we offer our students: break the task into discrete elements. One element of reconceptualizing professional competencies is to articulate what skills, or abilities, our students must possess to be effective attorneys, regardless of the specific jobs they accept upon graduation. Two other pieces of advice we often dispense is that change is incremental and that "the power of one" does have meaning. One person, over time, can shift the culture.
I encourage legal writing and clinical professors to work together—both within their institutions and through national organizations—to begin defining the abilities that a student must possess to transition successfully to his or her chosen legal or law-related position. As a guide, we should look not only to the MacCrate Report and the American Bar Association Standards, but also to models outside of our field. Professor Richard Neumann, for example, has encouraged law schools to study how architectural schools teach and evaluate students.10 Another example is the performance-based assessment program designed by Brown University's Alpert Medical School.11
Brown's competency curriculum was developed in the 1990s and implemented around 2000.12 As part of the curricular revision, the Brown faculty, deans, and students "set out to paint a portrait of the ideal physician[, and a]fter listing the characteristics of that ideal, . . . delineated the nine abilities expected of all."13 The nine abilities are:
- Effective communication: listens attentively and com-municates clearly with patients, families, and the health care team.
- Basic clinical skills: obtains an appropriate history and performs a skillful, comprehensive examination in a variety of patient encounters.
- Using science in the practice of medicine: recognizes and explains health problems based upon current scientific understanding; develops a plan for intervention that utilizes scientific understanding.
- Diagnosis, management, and prevention: diagnoses, manages, and presents [sic] the common health problems of individuals, families, and communities in a collaborative relationship.
- Lifelong learning: is aware of the limits of his/her personal knowledge; actively sets clear learning goals, pursues them and applies the knowledge gained to the professional practice.
- Professional development and personal growth: practices medicine with an awareness of his/her strengths and weaknesses; seeks help for difficulties; develops appropriate coping strategies and responds appropriately to constructive criticism.
- Social and community contexts of health care: in addressing the broader context of medicine, responds to nonbiological factors that influence health; utilizes community resources to support patients; advocates for better patient and community health.
- Moral reasoning and clinical ethics: recognizes the ethical dimensions of medical practice and health policy; identifies, analyzes, and effectively carries out a course of action that takes account of this ethical complexity.
- Problem solving: recognizes problems and takes effective steps in developing a plan of action to address these problems.14
∗ © Darby Dickerson 2007. Vice President and Dean, Stetson University College of Law. From 1996–2004, Dean Dickerson served as Stetson’s Director of Legal Research and Writing.
1 Or, to "erase lines." See Erasing Lines: Integrating the Law School Curriculum—Proceedings from the 2001 ALWD Conference, 1 J. ALWD (Pamela Lysaght, Amy E. Sloan & Bradley G. Clary eds., 2002).
2 E.g. Catherine Carpenter & ABA Sec. Leg. Educ. & Admis. to the B., A Survey of Law School Curricula, Executive Summary, http://www.abanet.org/legaled/publications/
curriculumsurvey/executivesummary.pdf (2004). Recently, Stetson University College of Law published a book on its 106-year history. Michael I. Swygert & W. Gary Vause, Florida’s First Law School: A History of Stetson University College of Law (Carolina Academic Press 2006). The required curriculum from 1900 would not look terribly foreign to today’s law students and faculty. See id. at 66–67.
3 E.g. ABA Sec. Leg. Educ. & Admis. to the B., Report of the Accreditation Policy Task Force, http://www.abanet.org/legaled/AC%20Task%20Force/cmtetf_20070612134026.pdf (May 29, 2007); U. Va., Institutional Assessment & Studies, SACS Reaffirmation and Assessment, http://www.web.virginia.edu/iaas/assessment/SACS.htm (accessed July 3, 2007). For additional information on this general topic, see Gregory S. Munro, Outcomes Assessment for Law Schools (Inst. for L. Sch. Teaching 2000).
4 E.g. Memo. from John A. Sebert, Consultant on Legal Education, to Deans of ABA-Approved Law Schools, University Presidents, Chief Justices of State Supreme Courts, Bar Admission Authorities, Leaders of Organizations Interested in ABA Standards, and Deans of Unapproved Law Schools, Revisions to ABA Standards 302 and 305 (Aug. 23, 2004), http://www.abanet.org/legaled/standards/standardsdocuments/memor302and305standards.pdf ; see also Kenneth D. Chestek, MacCrate (In)action: The Case for Enhancing the Upper-level Writing Requirements in Law Schools, 78 U. Colo. L. Rev. 115 (2007).
5 U.S. Dept. Educ., Action Plan for Higher Education: Improving Accessibility, Affordability and Accountability (Sept. 26, 2006), http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/actionplan-factsheet.pdf.
6 I want to thank my colleague Peter F. Lake, the Charles A. Dana Chair at Stetson University College of Law, for collaborating in developing this formula and other ideas regarding competencies and assessment.
7 Sophie M. Sparrow, Describing the Ball: Improve Teaching by Using Rubrics—Explicit Grading Criteria, 2004 Mich. St. L. Rev 1.
8 Mary Beth Beazley, Better Writing, Better Thinking: Using Legal Writing Pedagogy in the "Casebook" Classroom (Without Grading Papers), 10 Leg. Writing 23 (2004).
9 ABA Sec. Leg. Educ. & Admis. to the B., Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs (Eric B.
Easton gen. ed., 2d ed. 2006); Roy Stuckey et al., Best Practices for Legal Education (Clin. Leg. Educ. Assn. 2007),http://www.cleaweb.org/documents/Best_Practices_For_Legal_
10 Models from Other Disciplines: What Can We Learn from Them? 1 J. ALWD 165 (2002); Richard K. Neumann, Jr., Donald Schon, The Reflective Practitioner and the Comparative Failures of Legal Education, 6 Clin. L. Rev. 401 (2000).
11 Brown U., Alpert Med. Sch., MD Curriculum, Performance-Based Assessment, http://bms
.brown.edu/students/curriculum/index.php (accessed July 3, 2007).
13 Id. The new curriculum and approach included the abilities base, a revised mission
statement, and a comprehensive knowledge base. The new curriculum is presented in Stephen R. Smith et al., An Educational Blueprint for the Brown Medical School, http://biomed.brown.edu/Medicine_Programs/MD2000/Blueprint_for_the_Web_04.pdf (n.d.).
14 Brown U., Alpert Med. Sch., MD Curriculum, Performance-Based Assessment, http://bms
.brown.edu/students/curriculum/index.php (accessed July 3, 2007).