In the last two years, several law schools have announced plans to transform legal education. The word “transform” does not exaggerate the claims made. Harvard’s public statement offers but one example. "This marks a major step forward in our efforts to develop a law school curriculum for the 21st century," said Dean Elena Kagan. "Over 100 years ago, Harvard Law School invented the basic law school curriculum, and we are now making the most significant revisions to it since that time.”
Critics scoffed at the significance Harvard claimed for its recommended revisions. Every proposed change, they insisted, has been recommended long ago. And, in fact, every change already has been implemented by one or more other law schools in this country. But that hardly ends the debate. Even if critics prove entirely correct, the very fact that Harvard took much publicized action likely would get others moving on curricular changes. For good and for bad, such have been the dynamics of legal education in the United States for over a century.
And, indeed, very soon after the announcements by Harvard, deans and faculties across the country began debating ways to enhance the quality of the education they now provide. Often with input from students and practicing members of the bar, sometimes focusing deliberations around two recently published reports about the state of legal education (especially the “Carnegie Report”), law schools appear to be contemplating alterations of the traditional first year and perhaps even dramatic changes in the second and third years. Meanwhile, law schools appear already to have begun promoting programs in their current curricula that pre-date the very transformation Harvard attributes to it own decision.
Drawing upon the very best available literatures, this Workshop will examine closely the claims currently made by so many law schools. Are we indeed witnessing – are we experiencing, are we participating in – the long-awaited transformation of legal education? What does history tell us? What do current curricula reveal? What do proposed plans suggest? Of course exploring what to make of these claims illuminates the possible impact on law schools (and universities), on the legal profession, on the United States, on other countries and international bodies. In light of the diverse roles lawyers fill in this country and in every country, and in light of the raw power of the United States, it’s not hyperbole to believe changes in this country’s legal education will affect the structure of public, private, and civic institutions – and, in particular, legal systems -- all across the globe.
The predictable impact of transforming legal education in the United States would be reason enough to study the current situation closely. But every current law student should appreciate the deeply personal significance of the current situation. What are you to make of the legal education you now receive? To what degree are you learning in a system in need of transformation? To what degree are you learning in a system already transformed in ways some insist has yet to come? What choices can you make (especially in your second and third years) to pursue the sophisticated training that already delivers what the transformation aspires to effectuate? To what degree might you influence the nature of the changes made at UCLA and at other law schools across the country? Our study will be as intensely practical as it is ambitiously intellectual.
This is a graded, five-unit course, with attendance, active participation, weekly written reactions to readings, and a final paper all required. There are no prerequisites. The Workshop meets twice weekly, with one additional time reserved for both meetings and any group work. Enrollment is limited and admission is by consent of instructor. See Law 309's application in our Course Applications section.