The Magazine of Roger Williams University School of Law
3
A Chat with the Dean
Our Q&A with Dean David A. Logan
A new paradigm for legal education...
Dean Logan sent the following letter in
response to an article by the president of the
Rhode Island Bar Association. It appeared
in the January/February 2013 issue of the
Rhode Island Bar Journal
, and is reproduced
here in lieu of the usual Q & A.
Rhode Island Bar Association President
Michael McElroy used his fall President’s
Message to take aim at the state of legal
education: “It is my belief that the law
school model is broken. Law schools need
to produce practice-ready lawyers, but they
are not doing so.” His indictment is based
upon several observations, but, at base, he
criticizes law schools for paying too much
attention to the traditional aspects of the
classic legal education – case analysis and
doctrinal mastery – and insufficient attention
to developing practical lawyer skills.
President McElroy is by no means the
first to make that criticism: two important
studies, years apart – the American Bar
Association’s
McCrate Report
(1992) and the
Carnegie Endowment’s
Educating Lawyers
(2007) – made the same points and stirred
not just a robust debate but also significant
curricular change across the nation.
Indeed, RWU Law, which opened just
months after
McCrate
, built into its initial
curriculum greater attention to skills training
than was prevalent at the time, including a
graduation requirement of completing two
skills classes, with students being able to
choose from a simulation course (such as
Trial Advocacy) and a clinic (representing
clients in actual cases). As we now approach
the end of our second decade, the number
and type of experiential opportunities have
dramatically multiplied. Our current students
can choose from:
• four clinics: Criminal Defense,
Immigration, Mediation and –
coming this fall – Community
Economic Development;
• dozens of externships, working under the
close supervision of lawyers and judges in
both state and federal courts, with Non-
Governmental Organizations, and even
with the offices of corporate counsel;
• our unique Pro Bono Collaborative,
which helps many students satisfy our
graduation requirement of 50 hours of
uncompensated pro bono legal work;
• many capstone courses that enable third-
year law students to integrate doctrinal
knowledge learned earlier into the
practical settings that will arise in
practice; and
• an array of doctrinal courses that
have a very practical focus, like Workers’
Compensation and Elder Law.
Finally, RWU Law is one of the founding
members of the Alliance for Experiential
Learning in Law, organized by Northeastern
School of Law.
In short, the RWU Law curriculum –
while very traditional in both content (our
required courses are Torts, Contracts, Civil
Procedure, Criminal Law, Property, Legal
Methods, Evidence, Criminal Procedure,
Professional Responsibility and Constitutional
Law) and pedagogy (most faculty use a
version of the Socratic Method) – offers
both great breadth and depth in the electives
that help ease the transition from the ivory
tower to the real world.
Legal education, including RWU Law, is
by no means above criticism, but the type of
law school that President McElroy (and I)
attended in the 1970’s – ones that emphasized
only what I call book learning – do not
exist anymore, at Roger Williams University
School of Law or elsewhere.
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