University of Denver

Foundations for Practice: Tracking the Project’s Impact on Legal Education

Since publishing the results of our Foundations for Practice survey, we have been using those results in the second phase of the project to work with Columbia University, Seattle University School of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law to develop a set of learning outcomes, assessments, instructional designs, and hiring tools to instill and identify desired characteristics, competencies, and skills in future lawyers. Meanwhile, law school staff, administration, and faculty members from many other law schools have reached out to IAALS to learn more about how Foundations can improve legal education, or to share with us how they currently use Foundations to inform their programs. In response, we have been exploring opportunities to facilitate discussion among educators about Foundations for Practice and to explore how others are using the project to improve education for law students.

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On September 12, IAALS and Christine Cerniglia, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Clinical and Experiential Education at the Stetson University College of Law, presented a webinar entitled “A Teaching Roundtable: Building Foundations for Practice in Law School,” with support from the National Association of Legal Placement (NALP) and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT). The webinar featured panelists Julia DiPrete, Assistant Dean and Director, Professional Development Programming & Advising at Duke University School of Law; Thiadora A. Pina, Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Santa Clara University School of Law; and Paul Holland, Vice Dean and Associate Professor of Law at Seattle University School of Law. It also introduced the Foundations for Practice study, discussed how the project is currently being used in law schools across the country, highlighted real-world examples to inspire and inform others of the discussion as presented by the panel, and ended with an open-facilitated discussion among the panelists. According to NALP, the webinar was among its most popular, with over 180 registrants. 

We sent a poll to our registrants to understand their background, whether they were already using Foundations for Practice at their school, and, if so, how they were using it. And, the responses are encouraging! We had 23 responses to our poll, all of which indicated that the respondents primarily work in a school or academic setting. Only 5 of our respondents were not already aware of Foundations for Practice before they attended the webinar, while 14 of our respondents currently use Foundations for Practice in their work. Of those currently using Foundations for Practice in their work, the majority are using it in externship programs (7) and career or professional development programs (5), followed by student orientation and doctrinal courses (2 each) and clinical and writing programs (1 each). More specifically, respondents described exactly how they use Foundations, including:

  • Using the Foundations for Practice reports as required reading for externs to connect the dots between academics, experience, and practice;
  • Requiring students to assess their own and others’ behavior in meeting the Foundations for Practice in torts and remedies classes;
  • Using Foundations for Practice as the basis for an externship seminar that focuses on developing the competencies necessary for success right out of law school through group activities, hands on exercises, reflection, and large group discussions;
  • Using the Foundations for Practice data to provide students with context for the importance of “outside the classroom” skills and activities; and
  • Using Foundations for Practice in career counseling and to advise students one-on-one on professional development and workplace etiquette.

Given the level of interest and inquiry we have seen this past year and the success of this year’s webinar, IAALS will continue to make efforts to track and share how Foundations for Practice is being used so that we can continue to help educators understand how they can adapt and use it for their own programs. If you are using Foundations for Practice and have not reached out to us yet, or if you are not using Foundations for Practice but would like to, we want to hear from you! Together, we can work to improve legal education and close the gap between what new lawyers have and what new lawyers need.