October 30, 2007
CUNY School of Law has been selected to join an elite group of law schools around the nation, among them Stanford, Harvard, NYU and Georgetown, to make recommendations on the future of law school curricula.
The invitation follows the release of several public reports, including those from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and U.S. News & World Report, that have praised the emphasis on clinical practice for students at CUNY School of Law.
The request to join the small working group came from Larry Kramer, dean of the Stanford Law School, and Lee Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Their creation of the working group flows out of a report that the Carnegie Foundation issued earlier this year that cited CUNY School of Law for its ground-breaking approach to merging instruction in the clinical practice of law with the traditional law school curricula covering such subjects as torts, criminal procedure, and constitutional law.
Students in all three years of study at CUNY School of Law study practical lawyering skills; by the third year, they are required to represent clients in court in real cases under the supervision of faculty members.
“Each of the schools we are inviting to participate have been in the vanguard of assessing their own curricula in recent years,” Shulman and Kramer wrote in their letter to CUNY School of Law Dean Michelle J. Anderson inviting her participation in the evaluative project.
Anderson said the school is delighted to join the working group, which will meet at least once a year for face-to-face meetings for a period of three years. The first meeting will be in December. The group will make a public report, she said.
“It’s a nice coup for the school,” said Anderson. “The Carnegie Foundation recognized the innovative pedagogy that melds theory and practice instituted at CUNY School of Law’s founding, and now the School is being called upon for its expertise in that area.”
Also included in the group are the law schools at Vanderbilt, Southwestern, University of Dayton, University of New Mexico and the University of Indiana at Bloomington.
Since its opening nearly 25 years ago in 1983, CUNY School of Law has been a model for law schools around the country for its clinical work, and the school is routinely cited among the Top 10 law schools around the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings for its clinical practice training. The school currently has seven clinics serving indigent clients in such areas as immigrant and refugee rights, women’s rights and elder law, and the school operates the largest clinical practice in Queens — Main Street Legal Services, Inc. — on the campus of the School of Law.
In its report earlier this year, “Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law,” the Carnegie Foundation noted that CUNY School of Law is among just a few schools in the country that successfully integrates the instruction of practical, clinical lawyering skills with traditional core courses.
The report, in praising the CUNY law school, noted: “From the student perspective, learning the law is an ensemble experience, its achievement a holistic effect. From the point of view of student learning, the apprenticeships of cognition, performance, and identity are not freestanding. Each contributes to a whole and takes part of its character from the relationship it has with the others. Because case-dialogue teaching is seldom explicitly connected with clinical teaching, few law schools achieve the full impact that an integrated ensemble could provide.
“…[W]e believe legal education requires not simply more additions, but a truly integrative approach in order to provide students with a broad-based yet coherent beginning for their legal careers. It is the systematic effort to do this in their curriculum that makes programs like that at CUNY’s law school so noteworthy.”
The Carnegie Foundation report, Kramer and Shulman wrote, “has generated a great deal of attention on the subject of law school curriculum and pedagogy.” The report is part of Carnegie’s tradition of examining professional education. In 2010, Carnegie will mark the 100th anniversary of its acclaimed Flexner Report, which has been credited with having stimulated major changes in medical education. The expected report on law schools will coincide with the same anniversary, Kramer and Shulman stated.
The CUNY School of Law has been cited, in recent years, in myriad publications for the quality of its program and the depth of its faculty. As recently as two weeks ago, for instance, The Princeton Review, in its 2008 rankings, “170 Best Law Schools,” cited CUNY School of Law No. 1 in its welcoming atmosphere for older students and cited the school fourth in the nation for the diversity of its faculty. Roughly 35 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty are members of minority groups.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg of the U.S. Supreme Court has called CUNY School of Law “an institution of incomparable value” and has praised the school’s leadership for “innovations and tireless advancement of public interest law.”
And the 2006 Law School Survey of Student Engagement, co-sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, noted that CUNY Law students reported significantly higher rates of student collaborative work on projects and assignments and inclusion of diverse perspectives in class discussions and writing assignments.
The working group will be made up of three representatives from each of the 10 participating law schools. It is expected to include the dean of each school and two others. In addition, the Carnegie Foundation will be designating several individuals to participate in the group. Philanthropic foundations also are expected to work with the project “in recognition of the practical reality that some potential reforms will require outside sources of funds,” Kramer and Shulman said.
There are 196 schools of law in the United States that are approved by the American Bar Association.
The City University of New York dates its founding to 1847, the founding of the Free Academy in New York City. Today, The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university. CUNY comprises 23 institutions: 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law at Queens College, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. The University serves more than 231,000 degree-credit students and 230,000 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program for 32,500 high school students, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York. The University has launched an online baccalaureate degree through the School of Professional Studies, and a new Teacher Academy offering free tuition for highly motivated mathematics and science majors who seek teaching careers in the city.
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