Legal research courses are and have been for quite a while the “stepchild” in the legal education curriculum. But legal research is closely tied to each of the four competencies laid out by the ABA in Standard 301. Standard 301 could be transformative for legal research instruction if legal research courses are given the opportunity to fill necessary experiential learning gaps in legal education.
In The Need for Experiential Legal Research Education, 108 LLJ 511 (2016), Alyson Drake makes a strong case for experiential legal instruction. “Designating legal research courses as experiential would allow schools to both increase offerings in legal research and to meet the ABA’s newly-expanded six credit experiential course requirement for every student. When structured appropriately, stand-alone legal research courses clearly meet the requirements laid out in the simulation category of experiential courses.”
From the conclusion of Drake’s excellent article:
The primary goal of experiential legal instruction is to prepare students to do the type of work that awaits them as legal professionals. In response to frequent reports from employers and scholars that new hires’ research skills are lacking, the ABA now mandates that law schools produce attorneys who are practice-ready from day one. And since thirty-five percent of new attorneys’ time is spent conducting legal research, being practice-ready clearly requires that students practice and refine their research skills throughout law school. Experiential courses are the ABA’s answer for increasing students’ practice skills; as such, law schools need to embrace the experiential legal research course so more students have the opportunity to strengthen their research skills and the chance to enter the profession as practice ready professionals.
Recommended. — Joe