What Is the Carnegie Report and Why Does It Matter?

When legal education reform is discussed, Slaw readers may have heard mention of the Carnegie Report without knowing what the report is all about.

Simply put, the Carnegie Report calls for significant changes in legal education in North America. It recommends an integrated approach to legal education. The report identifies “the three apprenticeships” of legal education (theory, ethics, and practical skills) and calls for the apprenticeships to be integrated into courses throughout law school.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is a US based foundation founded in 1905. It describes its mission is as being “committed to developing networks of ideas, individuals, and institutions to advance teaching and learning.” In recent years, the Carnegie Foundation has examined education in several professions: medicine, clergy, nursing, engineering, and law.

The foundation’s examination of legal education is entitled Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law and was published in 2007. In their research, the authors looked at 16 law schools in the US and Canada.

The report observed that law schools rely heavily on one way of teaching to accomplish the socialization process:the case-dialogue method, which has some strengths in teaching students to “think like lawyers” but:

By contrast, the task of connecting these conclusions with the rich complexity of actual situations that involve full-dimensional people, let alone the job of thinking through the social consequences or ethical aspects of the conclusions, remains outside the case-dialogue method. Issues such as the social needs or matters of justice involved in cases do get attention in some case-dialogue classrooms, but these issues are almost always treated as addenda. Being told repeatedly that such matters fall, as they do, outside the precise and orderly “legal landscape,” students often conclude that they are secondary to what really counts for success in law school —and in legal practice. In their all-consuming first year, students are told to set aside their desire for justice. They are warned not to let their moral concerns or compassion for the people in the cases they discuss cloud their legal analyses. (
, p. 8)

Carnegie also found a significant limitation in legal education:

Most law schools give only casual attention to teaching students how to use legal thinking in the complexity of actual law practice. Unlike other professional education, most notably medical school, legal education typically pays relatively little attention to direct training in professional practice. The result is to prolong and reinforce the habits of thinking like a student rather than an apprentice practitioner…(
, p. 6)

Carnegie’s major recommendation was an integrated curriculum:

To build on their strengths and address their shortcomings, law schools should offer an integrated, three-part curriculum: (1) the teaching of legal doctrine and analysis, which provides the basis for professional growth; (2) introduction to the several facets of practice included under the rubric of lawyering, leading to acting with responsibility for clients; and (3) exploration and assumption of the identity, values and dispositions consonant with the fundamental purposes of the legal profession.

… the teaching of legal analysis, while remaining central, should not stand alone as it does in so many schools. The teaching of legal doctrine needs to be fully integrated into the curriculum. It should extend beyond case-dialogue courses to become part of learning to “think like a lawyer” in practice settings. (
, pp. 8-9)

Following publication of the Carnegie Report, curriculum reform occurred in many American law schools. For example, Washington & Lee has a third year that is mainly experiential learning. Northeastern has a co-op program with students spending three months in class followed by three months in a placement. In Canada, only the new law school at Lakehead has fully implemented a Carnegie-type curriculum.


  1. In the Canadian context it’s probably fair to say that it’s easier to design a curriculum from scratch then to revamp an existing one. There’s far more organizational resistance to the latter as well.

  2. Good to see that Lakehead Law is leading the change when it comes to legal education in Canada by implementing the Carnegie-type currciulum. As a charter class member of Lakehead Law it is exciting to be part of this change. The practical experience we have gotten so far has been exceptional.

  3. The TWU law school also intends to implement a skill-based curriculum.