What is Applied Legal Education?

For most of the 20th century American law schools were content to train students to "think like lawyers," leaving the job of training students to practice law to the workplace. In the early 1960's a handful of law faculty began small experiments in applied legal education through the development of legal clinics. The goal was to facilitate a reflective and experiential learning process without the economic and efficiency pressures of the workplace, and to help students understand how the law works in action while providing sorely needed pro bono representation to the poor.

In 1969, the Council on Legal Education for Professional Responsibility (CLEPR) was formed upon the notion that "applied legal education effectively places the practitioners-to-be in the chaos of real life; sharpens their skills in this context; teaches them to triumph over emotional stress and tensions as professionals; heightens their appreciation of quality standards of practice; shows them what it is to be people-oriented; enables them to help the machinery of justice function better by their presence as lawyers in training; and, above all, exposes them to the complexities and demands of justice on the level at which it operates."

With an 11 million dollar endowment, CLEPR soon awarded grants to 209 law schools to establish live-client clinics, effectively starting modern applied legal education. In live-client clinics, students provide direct representation to clients in a wide variety of substantive contexts under the supervision of a faculty member who is also a licenced attorney. The field soon came to include a significant number of "off-site" field placement programs in which students are simultaneously taught and supervised by law school faculty and practicing lawyers in the field.

Related Links

The AALS Section of Clincal Legal Education

Association of Legal Writing Directors

Cicada Consulting Group

The Clinical Legal Education Association

Law School Admission Council

Lextern Web

NALP 2010 Survey of Law School Experiential Learning

National Archive of Clinical Legal Education

The Society of American Law Teachers

University of Michigan's Center for Statistical Consultation and Research

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