Short abstracts of the presentations were submitted by many of the speakers in advance of the conference. The titles of those that were submitted are underlined; to view those abstracts, click on the title.

Title: Should Law Schools Use Prescriptive Curriculums?

Lead Presenter: Ernest Ojukwu


  1. Catherine Klein
  2. David McQuoid Mason
  3. Filip Czernicki
  4. Fryderyk Zoll
  5. Guadalupe Barrena
  6. Leah Wortham

Session Abstract: Since the publications of Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Best Practices for Legal Education: A Vision and a Road Map by the Clinical Legal Education Association all in the USA, there have been greater awareness and discussion among legal educators for the reform of legal education across the globe. One of the focuses of this awareness and discussion has been on how law schools can revise or redesign their law programmes and curriculum to more effectively prepare their students for legal practice. The following remark was captured at page 70 of Best Practice for Legal Education: “One of the reasons why law school curriculums lack coordination is the tradition of trying to accommodate faculty preferences and student requests. “Often curricular decisions are made in an incremental fashion, through negotiations between associate deans and individual faculty members or students. Varying dynamics characterize different schools and the resulting curriculum is often a patchwork that reflects favors given one or denied another faculty member ...” The Best Practice for Legal Education at page 70 then proceeded to recommend that “We encourage law schools to engage in more systematic institutional planning of their programs of instruction to achieve greater coherence. We endorse the following recommendation of the Cramton Report. Recommendation 7: Law schools should seek to achieve greater coherence in their curriculum. Even if it entails the loss of some teacher autonomy,….” Do we therefore insist that legal education curriculum should be institutionally prescribed? Generally, a prescriptive curriculum provides not only the courses within the curriculum but also provides a detailed plan of action that directs what to teach, how and methodologies for teaching the courses and lessons. In some countries the Institution that prescribes curriculum may be the accreditation body or the Faculty or School while in some cases, the oversight institution or faculty merely describes the statements of minimum standards or best practice on which the faculty or teachers will be required to design their courses and teach. There are arguments made for and against prescriptive curriculum at lower level education. An example of the argument has been offered by Erin Schreiner, eHow Contributor “Pros & Cons of Teaching a Prescribed Curriculum” (www.ehow.com/list_6834806_pros-cons-teaching-prescribed-curriculum.html accessed on 8th January 2015) as follows: 1. By presenting teachers with a prescribed curriculum, schools can ensure that their educators teach to the standards. 2. Using a prescribed curriculum from school to school helps ensure that all students are presented with the exact same information and eliminates any discrepancy that may o. 3. Prescribed curricula also frees up some time and takes the burden of planning away from the teacher. Free of this added responsibility, teachers should be able to devote more time to grading papers or working one-on-one with students. 4. Financially, a standardized curriculum is a good choice because it allows districts to buy and use one type of text book instead of continually replacing curriculum material or buying material to suit a particular teacher's desire. 5. It is easy to use and seemingly simple to implement. 6. Prescriptive curriculums take the planning out of teacher's hands. 7. It is restrictive. 8. When teaching with a prescribed curriculum, it is often more difficult for teachers to effectively respond to the individual needs of their students. 9. A prescriptive curriculum may be highly effective if teaching prepared students, but it is often ineffective when teachers are faced with students who are behind academically. These curricula often offer no time for teachers to help students catch up with material they may have previously missed, making it difficult for educators to effectively teach groups of students who function below grade level. This proposal is aimed at getting lead discussants and participants to share their experience from various jurisdictions on using institutional prescribed curriculum or teacher autonomy-driven curriculum or a mixture of these approaches. Participants will have the opportunity to review advantages and disadvantages/limitation of each approach; what works and what does not work and make suggestion for best practice for legal education.

Session Material:

  2. GAJE 2015 Wortham PP Required legal ethics
  6. Agenda Prescriptive Curriculums FINAL 7 15 15 with PILNET cite

See full list of abstracts here.