How do we learn the law?

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Legal pedagogy is rooted in history. Articling (or “reading law”) was originally a stand-along process where students apprenticed with a lawyer. In the late 1800’s Harvard law set the standard for classroom lectures taught by full-time academics. Over a hundred years later, a wealth of new ideas and technology is changing how we think about learning, in and out of universities.

Today, articling is widely credited with giving new professionals invaluable on-the-job skills that complement classroom learning. But those practical lessons are increasingly finding a home within law schools too, through clinics, pro bono associations and internships. Proper use of technology in the classroom, such as Prezzis, online stimulations and clickers, can greatly enhance learning. Flipped classrooms see students listening or watching substantive lectures at home, then coming to class to complete practice exercises (formerly known as “homework”).

The effects of technology have also been felt by continuing professional development (CPD, also referred to as continuing legal education or CLE). The Association for Continuing Legal Education considered the role of MOOCs (massive open online courses) in a conference earlier this year. Blogging can now partly fulfill CPD requirements in Ontario.  

Yet no matter what the format of learning, content remains key. Some critics have likened CLE and CPD to “the professional equivalent of driver's license renewal… they roughly correspond to showing up with your passport and getting a new picture taken.” Some call for law schools to create more “practice-ready grads” while others deride this concept as a “millennialist fantasy”.

Do law schools and CPD programs create efficient and effective learning for all? Where could they improve? Join the CBA and Omar Ha-Redeye next Tuesday, October 15 at 7pm EST for the third in a weekly series of Twitter chats on the future of legal education. #cbafutureschat. 

October 11, 2013 |
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