Law School Field Trips

This morning I accompanied a group of kindergarten students on their field trip to a planetarium. The whole experience left me musing about how at some point in one’s education the field trip just disappears. The quintessential field trip, which is undertaken despite the knowledge that some students will simply goof around on the bus, reflects the belief that even the uninterested are enriched by participating. But by high school, not to mention law school, the general enrichment trip is replaced with targeted opportunities for students with particular interests. (Think clinics and externships.)

So, here’s my question: if you were planning a series of field trips for 1Ls, where would you take them? I’d start with a tour of a prison, which would be bound to leave some sort of impression. I’d also like to arrange for each student to spend a full shift in a squad car, although I’m not sure how to pull that off for an entire first year class. (Also, the Estates and Trusts professor in me would like everyone near Philadelphia to visit the Barnes Foundation and see what all the fuss is about. That, however, may be a bit too targeted for my list, which is aimed at general legal enrichment.)

Suggestions, anyone?

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17 Responses

  1. anon says:

    My memory is fuzzy, but as a 1L at Chicago (maybe during orientation?) we took a “field trip” to a courtroom (state? federal?). We toured the holding cell, a judge’s chambers, and I think listened to a judge speak. I’m not sure whether my lack of recollection suggests it wasn’t a very enriching experience, or just that I’m finally succeeding in repressing all 1L memories!

  2. Illinois 2L says:

    In my first year crim law class we took a field trip to a nearby prison. It was an interesting experience. It was not something through the school, just based on my professor’s initiative.

  3. A.W. says:

    well, probably they don’t do too many official law school field trips, because well, if something goes wrong, the lawsuits will fly.

    But i had an experience almost the same as anon. we walked down to the nearby federal district court and watched a case.

    And, btw, the goofing off, etc. wasn’t in my experience. we were paying too much for our education to goof off.

  4. Matt says:

    While in law school my refugee law class went to York County Prison to meet w/ detained immigrants. It wasn’t really a field trip, as we were meeting them to possibly represent them, but it was still very interesting. Even though it’s not active, anyone in the Philly area should also visit the Eastern State Penn. And, having ridden with the police many times (two police officers in the family) I recommend doing a ride-along as well, though it might take quite a while to have a whole 1L class do it. For people near a big port (or even an airport), a trip to see what the customs and border patrol people do in inspecting incoming shipments is very interesting and useful for a trade or IBT class. I went on such a tour at Newark airport and the port of Elizabeth recently and found it useful and interesting.

  5. 1L says:

    How about a property trip to the registry of deeds. No–too much fun.

  6. Xanthippas says:

    My first year at Catholic we took a field trip to the Supreme Court. Obviously that’s not easily duplicated for most law schools, but I think the idea of seeing the law in action by visiting a court house is a great idea for a field trip in general.

  7. Roger Ford says:

    My 3L year, my criminal procedure class at Chicago had (optional) field trips to Cook County Jail and Stateville Prison. Those trips were probably the most memorable and moving part of law school for me.

  8. moz says:

    I’m all for getting law students to see the sausage factory. Ideally a shift in a squad car plus one in an ambulance, a day in court and a day in prison. If they’re good, let them out of prison. The ambulance will give them a better idea of the ups and downs of life than the squad car, just because people are often happy to see an ambulance.

    Stuff like property and corporate law is slightly harder and IMO not as necessary – most law students get exposed to piles of books and extreme boredom without needing a field trip to see it.

  9. Edward Still says:

    I teach Con Law at night, so not a lot is open. But if I were teaching in the daytime, we would walk over to Kelly Ingram Park (in downtown Birmingham AL) to look at the statues that remind us that constitutional rights are not given by the government but wrenched from it. [The park was the site of the confrontation between the police dogs and the black demonstrators in 1963 — you’ve seen the pictures and the newsreels many times.]

    Then we would walk into the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute … I think I will stop now and plan a Saturday field trip.

  10. Mike Zimmer says:

    I had a “lunch bunch” with some of my Constitutional Law students today. One left a bit early because she is in the Health Law Certificate program here at Loyola-Chicago and they were all going to make a plant visit at a nearby nursing home.

  11. Orin Kerr says:

    I have my 1L criminal law students go to an area trial-level courtroom and watch one hour of a criminal case. (The requirement is to do it in the 1st month of school; most go in groups that makes it a sort of field trip.)

  12. A.J. Sutter says:

    Just locate law schools in tough neighborhoods. Mine was in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, and I routinely saw crimes and arrests during the few minutes it took to walk from the bus stop to school. During the 1980s, at least, it was a living lab of crim law.

  13. Rachel says:

    I am a 1L at University of Maryland. My Con Law class took a field trip to the Supreme Court to hear a case on a constitutional issue.

  14. suzanne says:

    My mental health law seminar took a field trip to the little courtroom in Bellevue mental hospital to watch involuntary commitment hearings. It was definitely the highlight of that class, and one of the highlights of lawschool.

    But really, it is a little sad to think that we have to encourage “field trips” to courtrooms in law school. Ideally *all* students would be out doing real work with clients and in court rooms from the moment they started 1L. Would make law school much more practical — not to mention much more fun!

  15. onlooker says:

    What about a trip to a non-profit legal outfit like EFF, or Southern Poverty Law, or the ACLU, or any of the legal defense funds?

  16. Clay says:

    My Local Government Law class had to attend two local government meetings (school board, city council, etc.), though we went individually on our own time rather than as a class.

  17. Solangel says:

    My Property professor, the late Curtis Berger, required all his students to spend 1/2 a day in Housing Court. That was a eye-opening experience until I spent 1/2 a day in Family Court.