While experiential learning for decades has been part of the law school experience, it was not the part traditionally portrayed as integral to a student’s path to becoming an attorney. Law schools today, however, appear to celebrate and even extoll experiential learning and the once isolated pockets of law schools which brought it into the mainstream. Unfortunately, closer inspection reveals that the experiential learning movement in law school may be more marketing and spin than an honest shift in pedagogy, curriculum and culture. The next step for experiential learning may be the most difficult: progressing beyond the marketing doublespeak and pulling the beneficial elements of experiential learning across the curriculum.
In Section I, this article introduces the well-covered precursor to the current “experiential learning movement”: the confluence of the legal profession’s choices and industry change brought on by economic conditions. Section II next argues how law school marketing capitalized on the leaders of the experiential learning movement, while our culture in law school keeps them tucked away. Section III pays homage to the isolated, non-traditional pockets of legal education which brought us experiential learning: the legal clinics, simulation courses, and externship and pro bono programs. This discussion includes a profile of some of experiential learning’s key elements that can be further incorporated throughout the curriculum, pedagogy, and culture. Section IV describes the most difficult step for the experiential learning movement in legal education that remains: administrators instituting real change and offering consumer information past the marketing spin.
1 J. Experiential Learning 79 (2015).