11.08.12At the first National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law, held at Northeastern University School of Law (NUSL), representatives from 80 legal institutions including Harvard, Cornell and the University of California at Berkeley, identified programmatic and innovative initiatives for the coming year to provide law students with more practical, hands-on legal training.

Nearly half of the ABA-accredited law schools attended the symposium, which was hosted by NUSL, the Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law and the Northeastern University Law Journal. More than 200 representatives from schools across the US and Canada, leading AmLaw firms such as Cooley LLP and Mintz Levin, and legal groups such as the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York participated.

“The symposium allowed legal educators, attorneys, judges and students to share ideas and come up with strategies that institutions can adopt to better prepare future lawyers, as well as keep legal education accountable and affordable,” said NUSL Dean Jeremy Paul.

Deans from a wide range of law schools nationwide — including associate deans hired specifically to head their schools’ experiential learning efforts — joined professors, legal practitioners from private firms and public interest groups, and students to discuss how schools and firms can rethink traditional legal educational methods and work together to address current and future trends the legal profession faces. The symposium also featured a keynote address by American Bar Association President-elect and Sullivan & Worcester partner James R. Silkenat. 

The symposium covered major areas of legal education reform and several programmatic and curricular recommendations resulted, including:

  • Formalized partnerships among faculty, practitioners and students to identify the specific skills necessary to meet the needs of clients in a complex global marketplace;
  • Agreed-upon skills and competencies to develop integrated and innovative curriculum, including standardized language for experiential learning, teaching guides, simulations, co-ops, nationwide mandatory pro bono requirements, etc.; and
  • New ways of measuring law schools’ effectiveness in educating their students in light of technological changes and other economic forces (faculty/peer self assessments, alternative rankings, personalized statistical analysis, varying status of faculty, funding for alternative training, etc.).

Alliance working groups will begin developing tools and specific guidelines based on these recommendations.

“Today, it is more evident than ever that we need to develop partnerships between legal educators, practitioners and students,” said Luke Bierman, Associate Dean for Experiential Education at NUSL and convenor of the Alliance. “The symposium brought together a creative team of members of the legal community to brainstorm and develop concrete ways to achieve this partnership.”

Symposium participants agreed to expand the Alliance, which currently is comprised of legal educators from nearly 80 law schools nationwide, to include practitioners and students as well. 

With its expanded membership, the Alliance will reconvene before the end of the year to address practitioner and student involvement, staffing needs, progress, and 2013 goals.

About the Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law
Created in 2011, the Alliance is affiliated with a group of legal educators from nearly 80 law schools nationwide who are working together to develop a framework for integrating experience-based learning into law-school curriculums. Their collaboration is part of an effort to improve legal education to better prepare graduates with the knowledge, skills and ethical and social values necessary to serve clients and the public interest.

About Northeastern University School of Law
The nation’s leader in experiential legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law offers the longest-running, most extensive experience-based legal education program in the country and is a national leader in legal education reform. Founded with cooperative legal education as the cornerstone of its program, Northeastern guarantees its students an unparalleled full year of practical legal work. All students participate in four, full-time legal placements, and can choose from the more than 900 employers worldwide participating in the school’s signature Cooperative Legal Education Program. The future of legal education for the past 45 years, Northeastern University School of Law blends theory and practice, providing students with a unique set of skills and experience to successfully practice law.