Volume 7   Issue 1

By Luke Bierman, dean and professor of law, and Brittany M. Teague, Class of 2015 and editor-in-chief, Elon Law Review, Elon University School of Law

Nearly two years after the inaugural National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law at Northeastern University, the Second National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law was held in Greensboro, North Carolina, at Elon University School of Law, in June 2014.  The symposium was hosted by the Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law and Elon University School of Law, with support from Northeastern University School of Law.  The symposium was organized to define curriculum objectives and develop assessment outcomes for legal education.  Recognizing the increasing demand for innovation in law and legal education, panelists from the legal field and beyond shared research findings that indicated the acceleration of law student professional development through experiential education.

Similarly, Issue 7:1 of the Elon Law Review offers articles dedicated to experiential education, including a report from the working groups of the Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law, which was contemplated at the Second National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law.

Aside from the awareness of the applicability of the articles contained in this issue to all law schools, this issue of Elon Law Review also has particular relevance to our institution. In October of 2014, Elon Law announced the redesign of its curriculum, integrating experience-based learning throughout its program of legal education.

The Elon faculty designed the new curriculum with a conviction that learning by doing is essential to an exceptional legal education. Elon’s innovative curriculum offers a sequence of experiences with practicing lawyers and legal practice from day one to graduation. The Elon Law curriculum includes more traditional offerings of doctrine, writing and researching, clinics, moot court, mock trial and trial advocacy programs.  These time honored pedagogies, however, are being combined with more innovative experiential learning opportunities, including full-time, course-connected residencies-in-practice, team-based legal projects for nonprofits, first-year lab courses taught in partnership by full-time faculty and practicing attorneys, student shadowing of attorney mentors, and culminating bridge-to-practice courses.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of Elon Law’s curriculum is that learning opportunities are logically sequenced to enable students to take on increasing levels of responsibility within the legal profession as they progress through law school. Research presented at the Second National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law indicated that students who benefit from iterative and immersive practice experiences in law school become more deeply engaged in their courses and identify career goals earlier. Elon provides students with a dynamic interplay between these iterative, immersive experiences in practice and rigorous courses to achieve exceptional learning outcomes and accelerated career development. The sequence of Elon Law experiences is designed to enrich students’ knowledge and skills, accelerate their professional development and broaden their career opportunities.

In addition to the experiences integrated into the law school curriculum at Elon, each student benefits from a four-person Student Success Team that includes a faculty advisor, an attorney mentor, an executive leadership coach and a career consultant. As students progress through law school, their advising teams collaborate to identify courses and work placements that advance each student's knowledge, skills and professional goals within their areas of interest.  The student will capture a variety of work products on an e-portfolio that memorializes these intentions for ease of sharing with faculty members, prospective employers and others interested in the student’s professional progress. 

Elon Law’s commitment to experiential learning is not new. It is a cornerstone of the law school’s founding vision to be a pioneering “law school with a difference” and it is rooted in Elon University’s historic and nationally recognized programs of engaged global learning. One facet of Elon Law’s expression of commitment to engaged and experiential learning is its relationship since inception with the North Carolina judicial system. Elon Law is one of the few U.S. law schools to be the home of a working court – the North Carolina Business Court.  NC Superior Court Judge James L. Gale, who sits in and supervises the Court, teaches at Elon Law, welcomes students to observe the Business Court in session, encourages dialogue between students and business law attorneys and involves Elon students in the Business Court as interns and judicial clerks. The location of the Business Court and judge’s chambers within Elon Law’s facilities is yet another example of Elon connecting students’ legal education to the practice of law from start to graduation.

As the faculty at Elon Law works to implement a groundbreaking new curriculum, its focus remains on fulfilling the primary aspects of the school’s 2014-2019 strategic plan related to serving as a hub of learning, lawyering and leadership. Elon Law is guided by its mission to prepare client-competent graduates who are bar exam ready and who have positive career opportunities while establishing leadership in legal education through a distinctive program of engaged preparation. Just as the Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law has worked collaboratively and creatively to focus attention on the opportunities available to forward thinking legal educators to transform how we prepare lawyers in a new century, Elon Law remains committed to establishing partnerships with the members of the faculty at U.S. and international law schools and with legal practitioners to shape a more relevant legal education that meets the demands of clients and the public interest in the 21st century. 

Index for Elon Law Review - Volume 7, Number 1