Developing Professional Judgment: Law School Innovations in Response to the Carnegie Foundation's Critique of American Legal Education

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The Ethics Project in Legal Education

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Contribution to Book

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In 2007, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching issued a book-length report on American legal education, criticizing American law schools and issuing a call for reform. This book chapter draws on concepts from the field of moral psychology which have been used in other American professional schools to explain the Carnegie Report’s critique as a call for teaching professional judgment in legal education. The chapter then describes innovations taking place since the publication of the Carnegie Report at three American law schools. The first innovation summarized is the new approach to clinical education at Stanford Law School, which includes a semester-long "rotation" in which students are entirely immersed in clinical education, and a new course taught exclusively for clinical students in which students act as the "ethics committee" to resolve actual professional and ethical challenges arising in one or more of Stanford’s many clinics. The second innovative law school described is the Indiana University Maurer School of Law (Bloomington) which has become the first American law school to move the required course in legal ethics into the first year curriculum with the same number of credits as other core courses such as contracts and property. The course at Indiana employs a number of teaching methods intended to develop professional judgment; students learn about professional norms in a variety of settings, including interacting with exemplary members of the legal profession, and reflect about their own developing identities as legal professionals. The third, and perhaps most innovative, development is taking place at the Washington & Lee School of Law where an entirely experiential program replaces the traditional classroom-based third year curriculum and teaches professional judgment through simulated and actual practice experiences. Using insights from moral psychology as an analytical framework, this chapter explores the way that these three innovations respond to the Carnegie Report’s call for change and point the way for the American legal academy toward the effective development of professional judgment.


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Recommended Citation

Clark D. Cunningham & Charlotte Alexander, Developing Professional Judgment: Law School Innovations in Response to the Carnegie Foundation's Critique of American Legal Education, in The Ethics Project in Legal Education (Routledge, 2011).

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