Deborah Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas & Antoinette Sedillo López



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In discussing experiential education, Best Practices for Legal Education focused primarily on the three traditional types of separate experiential courses: in-house clinics, externships, and simulations, and treated them in a separate chapter. These courses were defined as those where “experience is a significant or primary method of instruction” rather than a secondary method, and where “students must perform complex skills in order to gain expertise.”

Arguably, this separate treatment reinforced what has too often been a divide between doctrinally-focused teaching and practice-focused teaching. Best Practices recognized that “experiential education can be employed as an adjunct to traditional methodologies regardless of class size” through methods such as incorporating simulation exercises into doctrinally-focused courses. It did so, however, only as part of its discussion of best practices for legal education generally.

This section builds on Best Practices by emphasizing the need to incorporate experiential education throughout the curriculum in order to maximize its educational impact. The term “experiential education” is, therefore, used to encompass both separate experiential courses and what will be termed “experiential modules.” Because a key distinction in experiential education is between simulated and real experiences, the term “clinical legal education” will be restricted to separate courses involving real experiences—law clinics, externships and offerings using alternative models, often termed “hybrids.” The term “law clinics” will be used to include both traditional in-house clinics taught by full-time faculty, and other structures that provide a similar level of intensive, integrated teaching and supervision.

As Best Practices suggested, it is helpful to distinguish “experiential learning” and “experiential education.” Both happen in law school, and in life; both are important. Experiential learning is simply a primary way that people learn on their own, whereas experiential education involves active and purposeful design and teaching. A focus on experiential education directs law schools and individual legal educators to their role in ensuring that maximum learning takes place beyond raw experience. The way in which each teacher integrates experiential education methods will often determine how far the students develop as lawyers in response to those methods. The way in which a law school designs and delivers a coherent array of courses to allow a student to progress from novice to (reasonably) competent professional in three short years will, more and more, define its efficacy, reputation, and leadership as a provider of legal education.

Title of Book

Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World



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Document Type

Book Chapter




New Providence, NJ


clinical legal education, experiential education


Legal Education

Incorporating Experiential Education Throughout the Curriculum

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