Legal Education; the Alternatives

There was an article in a recent number of the Law Times on a conference at Ryerson on legal education. The focus seemed to be on whether law schools should stick with their current model of education, i.e., teaching students “how to think”, not what they need to know to be lawyers—what I call the “Harry Arthurs” model. This attitude was juxtaposed with “clinical” legal education.

It seems to me that this is a false dichotomy and that there is an alternative—whether it’s called a “middle way” or not. One such alternative would be to require students to undertake practical exercises like drafting in much the same way as they now do moots. Of course drafting does not have the (supposed) glamour of appellate argument but it teaches skills that cannot be taught either in the Harry Arthurs model or particularly well in the clinical model. One additional benefit of the alternative that I offer is that it exposes students to the work of the solicitor, a professional role that law schools generally ignore even if they don’t have contempt for it.

It would be interesting to have a discussion on Slaw of the merits (and otherwise) of the various possible models of legal education.


  1. Angela,

    I read the article as well. I do agree that that third way you propose is a good one. It has already been done at some schools. When i was a law student at Western, for my civil procedure class, we had to draft mock factums and motions.

    It’s also true that while I agree there should be more practicality in law schools, that isn’t necessarily what a law school is for. It is not “lawyering school”. Indeed, articling is what truly introduces someone to the intricacies of practice. Law school indeed teaches one how to think about the law, and how to apply it to real-life situations.

    What I also think needs to be done, is more emphasis on legal research. It isn’t really stressed in law school, or for that matter, in practice all that much. It is by researching that one gets the building blocks of an argument for a case. However, neither law schools or firms emphasize this, and as a result students are not as well prepared for articling as they could be.

    This is an argument that has been going on for years and I’m sure will continue long after we leave the law library profession.