COMPARING NOTES: CROSS-CAMPUS VISITS FOR CLINICIAN DEVELOPMENT

JAMES A. SONNE

Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Director of its Religious Liberty Clinic

As law-school clinicians, we take pride in creating a dynamic learning environment where students from virtually any background or perspective can learn lawyering skills and judgment in and through supervised live-client representation. And among the central lessons we aim to teach and model is the collaborative, in-person development of a lawyer’s professional identity—across the class, between instructor and student, and in partnership with others. By framing the practice and profession through peer-to-peer learning we broaden and deepen the experience for our students far beyond what an isolated project could offer, and, in so doing, instill in them an abiding appreciation for the benefits of such learning in their careers.

But do we do this for ourselves as clinical instructors? Indeed, if first-hand comparative learning on a continuing basis is such an essential professional norm, should we not also engage in it for our own work with students and clients? And even if some of us already do this, could we do more, or in a more deliberate, reflective, and comprehensive way? After all, surely none of us is above improving ourselves through the example of others. We are all works in progress.

No matter our current approach for enhancing our teaching through peer engagement, this essay shares a relatively straightforward yet innovative idea that a colleague recommended to me a few years ago: on-site visits to clinicians at other law schools. And although the suggestion was particularly salient to me as a new clinician building a new clinic at the time, it is one that can benefit any clinical teacher dedicated to self-improvement. Having taken the suggestion, I write to share the experience and its promise—for new and seasoned clinicians alike. [Read entire article here].