INCREASING LAW STUDENT PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE, IDENTITY AND ENGAGEMENT THROUGH CASE SIMULATIONS
Western State University, College of Law (UNITED STATES)
Professional degree programs (law, business, medicine, etc.) straddle two worlds: instruction in traditional academic knowledge and abstract principles, and education and inculcation of professional skills and practice methodologies. The 2007 Report of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Educating Lawyers, criticized American legal education for not teaching law students to develop professional competence and identity, while focusing too much attention on legal principles and theory. The balance of coursework in law schools has typically been weighted towards the latter and away from the former. Further, these two areas are often divided into distinct fields, doctrinal courses and clinical experiences. In my institution, this separation leads to limited student engagement in learning basic principles, as students perceive abstract knowledge to be far removed from the concrete demands of the profession and practitioners’ needs. The problem is exacerbated in student populations who, because of prior educational background or experience, have difficulty translating theoretical knowledge or models into tangible, specific professional situations and skills. This presentation will explain some uses of simulations and methods for reengaging students in their traditional doctrinal courses, helping them bridge the gap between theory and practice, and increasing their professional competence and identity.