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Does clinical practice experience improve a law student’s chances of getting a legal job? If not, would it, if employers were given better information about that experience? And if not, are there other reasons to justify a law school’s decision to fund a clinical program? The answer to the first two questions is almost certainly no. For many reasons—the uneven and situation-driven nature of clinical practice experience, the Delphic quality of practice evaluations, the availability of more effective in-house training options, and the like—most private law firms prefer to trust conventional academic credentials more than practice experience in deciding whom to hire. But the answer to the third question is just as certainly yes. What law delivers is as important as what it promises, and clinical education, at its best, teaches students how to deliver on law’s promises. The case for clinical education needs more substantive arguments, however, not pedagogical ones, if it is to silence the doubters. What new skills, bodies of knowledge, values, perspectives on the world, theories of justice, and the like, do students learn in clinical practice that they do not (or cannot) learn in conventional law school courses? Attempts to answer these questions are out there, and the questions themselves seem manageable, but more work needs to be done.

Publication Citation

2015 Wisconsin Law Review Forward 65.


Legal Education | Legal Profession