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Law School Innovations Result In Broader Students

Publication Date: 
September 10, 2007
The Complete Lawyer

Dean Larry Kramer discusses the curriculum changes underway at Stanford Law School and the larger context for this transformation of legal education. Among the topics he discusses is the changing business of law: how legal practice has become transnational, and much more specialized because business, science, medicine, government and technology have become much more complex; how legal practice is shifting from profession to business; how young associates are defecting from big firms in rising numbers; and how traditional legal education is no longer capable of teaching future lawyers everything they need to know to practice in this much changed landscape.

Dean Kramer explains that as a response to the expanded role that lawyers are to play as problem-solvers, he is broadening the curriculum to enable law students to take courses outside the law school and develop subject matter expertise--to really understand the business of their clients. Within the law school, he and the faculty are developing interdisciplinary problem-solving courses that enable students to solve problems as part of a cross-profession team, not only expertly spot them as individual lawyers. And the school is expanding its clinical education program, with the idea that clinical education is central--not peripheral--to pedagogy and provides an important classroom experience for students to apply their ability to "think like a lawyer" to a "messy" real-world client representation situation. Kramer begins by explaining:

We start with the premise that the core skill of thinking like a lawyer remains the heart of our discipline, and that it therefore remains the most important thing we need to teach students. But we do most of that, as do all law schools, in the first year. The first year is actually the part of traditional legal education that works best...So it’s the second and third years we need to rethink...At Stanford...our plan is to make these years very different.