link to Mitchell home pageWilliam Mitchell College of Law

The Legal Education Renaissance project began more than a decade ago. Two colleagues and I talked about how little we knew about the practice of law when we graduated from law school. We agreed that as new lawyers, we did not understand what it meant to be a lawyer. My colleagues asked why no one was doing anything to improve the legal education system and challenged me to do something about it.

For more than a century, law school teaching has relied on an education model that focuses on theory, providing minimal opportunity for students to learn and apply the practical problem-solving skills critical to becoming a competent lawyer in real world settings. Modern learning theory provides direction, and the tools are available for improving the legal education system to prepare students for the practice of law.

The perspectives and recommendations in this article are presented with the intent of encouraging discussion about the future of modern legal education.

This article has two sections. The first section provides an overview of the history and status of legal education. The second section suggests a model for change, and incorporates modern learning theory and teaching tools. It provides answers to criticism as it addresses curriculum, teaching, faculty, and costs.

With great hope for the future of the profession and the legal education system, I invite you to consider and address the ideas presented. It is not only possible, but essential, to create a Legal Education Renaissance.

John Sonsteng
St. Paul, Minnesota, 2008