Reforming law school education is a hot topic. Lawyers, law professors, and even the president have weighed in on various aspects of this debate: How to make law school more affordable, how to adjust legal education to address the ever-growing need for attorneys for low-income persons (especially in civil matters where there is no constitutional right to counsel), how to incorporate real-world experience so that law schools produce practice-ready lawyers. Many believe that enhancing the law school clinical experience is part of the solution to this last issue. I do too.
I am a 2011 graduate of Stanford Law School. While at Stanford, I participated in the Stanford Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, where I had the opportunity to represent indigent clients in immigration proceedings. Observing my classmates taught me that it is not enough for a law school to merely provide clinical opportunities. Most of my law school colleagues enrolled in clinics at some point. Some enjoyed it, and some did not. Some found the experience professionally useful while others found the work uninspiring. So, what is the key to a successful clinical program that adds lasting value to a law student’s education? Obviously, there is no “silver bullet.” However, drawing on my own experience, there are a number of steps I believe law schools can take.
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