The Clinical Divide: Overcoming Barriers to Collaboration Between Clinics and Legal Writing Programs


Increased communication between legal research and writing (“LRW”) programs and clinical programs is desirable because it provides students with a seamless learning experience, enhances faculty teaching in both departments, and creates opportunities for collaboration that benefits a law-school community generally. But barriers presently exist that hinder collaboration. Specifically, barriers that impact collaboration and integrated learning between LRW and clinical programs stem from: (1) differences in the development of the two disciplines and the resultant differences in teaching methodologies; and (2) other practical barriers including physical separation, status issues, lack of communication, competing demands within the law school and the reality of how little collaboration presently occurs. With respect to the first barrier, which is the most deeply rooted and the most salient, the differences in the development of clinics versus LRW programs has created, on the clinical side an approach to teaching that is defined by progressive, client-centered and reflective learning and on the LRW side teaching methodologies guided by traditional, lawyer-centered, and forward-looking principles. Because these approaches are so different and because in practice clinicians and LRW faculty are not regularly communicating on these issues, faculty cannot provide seamless instruction to students. But clinical and LRW faculty can overcome these differences with increased communication and a conscientious commitment to incorporate principles of each other’s teaching into their own pedagogy. The author encountered and addressed these very difficulties in the context of designing a hybrid LRW-clinical course at Northwestern University School of Law.


Legal Education | Legal Writing and Research

Date of this Version

August 2006