You would have to live under a rock not to know that law schools increasingly feel the pressure to teach practical skills. Law schools can no longer teach doctrine and count on law firms to teach new lawyers the skills they need. As a result, many schools are starting to incorporate practicum-style courses into the curriculum. These courses allow students to learn litigation or transactional skills in the classroom by working on simulated cases or transactions.
My sense is that many of us are interested in teaching these courses, but the practicalities are daunting. Two years ago, I set out to create a course that would teach students how to be corporate litigators. I had visions of teaching my students an array of practical skills, including how to untangle financial statements, read complex statutes, and draft various case materials. It looked so good in my head. Then I actually tried to put together the course. There was no textbook. There were no model exercises. There was no anything… I spent a crazy amount of time putting together a course packet, coming up with weekly drafting assignments, and thinking about how to teach the skills I thought my students would need. I hesitate to say exactly how much time out of fear of scaring away others, but I still have flashbacks of sitting at my kitchen table for days on end trying to come up with creative fact patterns and drafting exercises.
At the end of the day, I was able to put together the materials for a course called Corporate Fraud & Litigation. I have taught the course twice now, and I really love it. But the preparation continues. I still develop new graded exercises every year out of fear that last year’s students will pass on their answers to this year’s students. The end result is that I spend significantly more time preparing for this course than for my other two courses combined. I am currently contemplating a complete overhaul of my course, but I have to admit that the massive work involved gives me pause.
I wonder whether the reality of having to prepare these materials—and then prepare many of the exercises anew every year—is holding back the development of these courses. Read More