Integrating skills into the study of law
Date of this Version
Recent studies on legal education recognize the importance of skills education. Legal skills have lasting power and value. They serve the student well both inside and outside of legal practice. The difficulty that law school programs face is in delivery of these skills. How should lawyer skills be taught? What is the most effective method or methods? In answering these questions, this paper will compare, contrast and critique two different models. First, there is the "stand alone" skill course model, which is most common in North America. In this model specific skill courses are built into the curriculum and are taught by skill instructors. The skill courses are separate and distinct from the traditional law subjects. Skills are segregated from law. A strength of this model is that they are taught by experienced skill teachers; a weakness is that they are often marginalized and regarded as second tier subjects. A second approach is the "integrated" model; where skills are taught within the existing traditional subjects. The skills become a part of the traditional course. This counters the marginalization of the skill, but there is a cost - the skills are often not taught in depth or by experienced instructors. What is advocated for in this paper is a combined approach using both integration of skills in certain traditional courses to be augmented by stand alone skill courses, where the skills can be taught and developed in a more rigorous and comprehensive way.
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