Thursday, February 28, 2008

Carnegie Report Reinforces the NITA Mission

A Special Perspective from NITA’s Educational Consultant, Jeanne Philotoff

As mentioned in our recent post, The Carnegie Report, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a report in March 2007 that reinforces what the McCrate Report found in 1992 and what the NITA faculty and staff have known for decades. The message: legal skills training must become an essential part of law school curriculum. Legal education needs to evolve to become more linked to the practical requirements of practicing law.

Most people familiar with NITA know that we started as a task force of the American Bar Association. The success of NITA was immediate. It must be noted that many of our original programs took place at the law schools where these very discussions on learning-by-doing are taking place today. You could (and in most cases, can still) find us at Hofstra, SMU, Nova Southeastern, Northwestern, Loyola/LA, Loyola/CA, University of Washington, and the University of California at San Diego, to name just a few. We created a mission that organizations believed in and were determined to become apart of. Materials were needed to train our participants and soon the law schools looked to NITA for the role-playing exercises needed to test the skills that faculty were trying to develop in their students.

Most graduates report that they are able to incorporate into practice the legal skills they’ve developed in school during their summer associate experiences after their first and second years of law school. It is this experience, and the fact they show themselves to be capable in the art of advocacy, that has the greatest influence on their career paths.

The Carnegie report suggests that the third year be designed as a kind of “capstone” opportunity for students to develop specialized advanced clinical training. Most schools now limit this opportunity to a few lucky students. We, like the Carnegie Foundation, would like to see this change.

Together, we can provide the quality education that our law students need and that their future clients deserve. NITA programs and publications can serve as a guide and catalyst toward a fundamental shift in law school curriculum. Integrating theory and practice, the abstract and the practical is of paramount importance.