Washington and Lee University School of Law has announced a plan to replace all third-year academic classes with hands-on "experiential" learning. Recently approved unanimously by faculty, the new curriculum will be phased in over 3-4 years and teach practical skills by using simulations and real-client interactions. It will also emphasize non-traditional topics like attorney-client communication, working in teams, problem-solving and civil leadership.
The revised program is in response to firms, corporations and judges urging greater law school emphasis on professionalism and learning in context. Following the March 2007 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching report on inadequacies in law schools, a network of 10 law school launched a project that aims to improve how law schools operate and teach.
Another relevant area that law schools would be wise to teach is leadership and management. Leadership and management skills are increasingly important to both the individual lawyer’s career and to the success of his/her law firm/law department. Orrick, Goodwin Proctor and a number of other law firms send their young partners to Harvard or other business school leadership courses, and/or hold off-site workshops for junior partners on leadership and law firm economics, management and team-building. But partnership is often late to be grooming those skills. The next bold step will be for law schools to introduce these critical subjects, and start identifying and honing associated skills, while lawyer students are mastering legal subject matter.