PreLaw - Back to School 2010 - 9
‘Experimental learning’ encouraged in latest legal profession report
Experts in legal education release their findings of critical issues in 21st Century legal practice that need to be addressed BY KAREN DYBIS
ore law schools should develop and encourage “experiential learning,” giving students access to clinics, externships and the like in order to smooth the transition from education to full-time employment, a new report advises. “The vast expansion of the law and the complexity of the modern technological and commercial world in which it operates, not to mention the recent economic upheaval, have made lawyer training and development more important than ever,” the report states. Released in the spring, “Equipping Our Lawyers: Law School Education, Continuing Legal Education, and Legal Practice in the 21st Century” gives a complete picture of what those who provide — and use — continuing legal education want and need from all parts of the legal community. The report was prepared jointly by the American Law Institute-American Bar Association Continuing Professional Education (ALI-ABA) and the Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA). The report says the big challenge is the different approaches that law schools take to their missions. It says that providing a law school experience that helps prepare law students for the rigors of practice is essential to all parties, and one that is particularly important in light of the economic challenges currently facing the legal profession across all areas. The two groups came together with legal educators and professionals in October 2009 during their Critical Issues Summit. The 45-page report gives background on the Summit, a point-by-point overview of the groups’ conclusions and an outline of how groups could make these largely practical suggestions into reality. The report recommends that the Bar examination be restructured from a onetime event to phased examinations over
time, even as early as law school. This would allow fledgling attorneys to gain the experience and skills needed to excel on this all-important test. Another key recommendation would be to bring law schools and CLE providers together to talk about ways to partner in career-long development. This would allow students to see that what they are learning in law school is the first step in becoming competent lawyers, the report notes. This recommendation emphasizes the importance of making lawyer education a true career-long continuum, rather than a disconnected landscape of only distantly
related fiefdoms with few connected pathways or purposes,” the report states. Additionally, those who work with continuing education also would want “appropriate” and updated accreditation standards, particularly for distance learning for experienced, working attorneys. This would provide strong guidelines, helping educators prepare lawyers near and far for any challenges. To that end, the report asks law firms to be more open-minded about the kinds of programs they offer, which would make them potentially more effective for the attorneys that use them.
Brooklyn Law professor’s 9/11 documentary wins praise
Aliza Kaplan, professor at Brooklyn Law School, is known as a passionate legal writing instructor, an advocate of the Law School’s Safe Harbor Project and a contributor to the National Advisory Committee of Equal Justice Works. Recently, Kaplan also added the title of award-winning film producer to her repertoire. Kaplan’s film, “The Oath,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and took home the award for Best Cinematography in a documentary. The film is a follow up to her 2006 film “My Country, My Country,” which was written and directed by her longtime friend Laura Poitras and was nominated for an Academy Award. “The Oath” is the second piece of Poitras’ post-9/11 trilogy, which focuses on brothers-in-law Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s most famous recruit, now on trial for terrorism. Poitras highlights Jandal’s daily life as a taxi driver in Yemen and Hamdan’s military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay prison. “I am drawn to films that tell the stories of real people,” Kaplan said. “There is so much more to a person than what you see on the surface, and Laura does a beautiful job of exploring these layers.” Kaplan’s goal as a producer dovetails with her goal as a legal advocate: “I am most concerned with changing the course of peoples’ lives.” “The Oath” was released nationwide in the summer.
Beack to School 2010