There are several schools of thought about what the first year of law school is all about. The first is the “skills” thesis. This is the idea that the goal of the first year of law school is to introduce students to the fundamental skills of the profession and that they can learn the substance later.
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I’ll call the second theory the “proficiency” thesis. This is the idea that the goal of the first year is to inculturate students by teaching them fundamental doctrines and values on which will (1) build their understanding of the structure of the American legal system and (2) allow them to have educated conversations in a professional context.
Whatever the animating theory behind the curriculum, I am not convinced the method of teaching either “skills” or “proficiency” is too effectively conveyed by classes of 100 people, a single essay exam at the end, and a pseudo-Socratic approach (that is often merged with straight lecture). Perhaps law schools could benefit by looking at other educational approaches used by other disciplines: medicine, business, even engineering. I might feel more confident in the 1L year if there was more awareness and less of a sense that it’s simply “always been done this way.”