What's New In Legal
Tomorrow's Attorneys Studying More Than Law
Today's law students grapple with an educational experience that would be
immediately familiar to veterans of the legal profession. The lengthy casebook
assignments, the Socratic method, Palsgraf and the duty of care, the
issue-spotter exams—all of these are enduring fixtures of the law school
experience. But legal education has also evolved over time, keeping pace with
changes in the legal profession. The most recent innovations in legal education
have been designed to equip the next generation of law students to practice
in an environment of increasing complexity. Using new technologies, offering
students a more global perspective and creating more opportunities for experiential
learning all play a role, but some of the best developments in legal instruction
have occurred at the intersection of law and other disciplines.
Negotiating the web of laws and regulations in areas like health care, domestic
matters, business, the environment and intellectual property can be daunting
to a newly-minted J.D. The School of Law is uniquely positioned to prepare
students for these challenges by taking an interdisciplinary approach. The
proximity of our sister schools, including the schools of medicine, pharmacy,
social work and business, has enabled us to stay in the vanguard of legal education.
By drawing on the resources in our own backyard, we have enriched our course
offerings, joint-degree programs, research efforts and community service initiatives.
The School of Law offers almost 20 interdisciplinary courses that take advantage
of these nearby assets. School of Pharmacy professors teach our students about
food and drug law. Students in our Clinical Law Program work with School of
Social Work faculty and students to reform law and policy related to housing,
immigration, drug treatment, child welfare, special education and other matters.
In our Law &
Health Care Program, students from the health profession schools learn together
with our law students through courses such as Critical Issues in Health Care,
Conflict Resolution in Health Care, and Homeland Security: Interdisciplinary
Study of Emergency Response to Natural and Manmade Disasters.
Interdisciplinary offerings find their fullest expression in the joint-degree
programs the law school offers in conjunction with other University schools.
The J.D./Master of Social Work program prepares students for careers in the
administration of human service organizations, and in executive, legislative
or judicial areas of government concerned with child welfare, family law and
other issues. The J.D./M.S. program in toxicology prepares students for professions
in the fields of environmental regulation and the assessment of public-health
risks. Dual-degree programs with the schools of nursing, pharmacy and public
health equip students with the specialized knowledge necessary for today's
increasingly complex legal environment. Through other campuses, including College
Park and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, students may couple their
J.D.s with a degree in criminal justice, business administration, public policy
or community planning to complement their legal education.
As the law itself has changed, so too has the role of the modern law school.
Our mission has expanded from simply training successive generations of lawyers
to actively working to improve the law and legal institutions. As a public
law school, we also embrace a mission that includes serving as a resource for
developing law and public policy in Maryland and beyond its borders. Our efforts
in this area are enhanced immeasurably by the opportunities for collaboration
that the University affords. The School of Law's specialty programs, academic
centers and faculty scholarship, as well as its wide range of conferences and
symposia all draw on the resources of our sister professional schools. Collaboration
helps frame the debate on a variety of issues, such as end-of-life care, the
environment, tobacco control, the ethics of nanotechnology and the intricacies
of venture capital.
Our role as a public law school also includes offering service to the community.
The law school's Clinical Law Program enables us to help people of modest means
while giving our students hands-on experience in a diversity of practice areas.
For many of these, an interdisciplinary approach enriches the students' understanding
of the legal issues they seek to unravel and trains them to become collaborative
problem solvers. For example, a law student might work with students from the
schools of Social Work and Nursing to secure legal custody for a child's grandparents,
provide the child with health care and ensure that the couple receives its
government benefits. All told, the 24 individual clinics provide more than
110,000 hours of free legal services to Maryland citizens all across the state,
and participation is required of all our full-time students.
The Center for Health and Homeland Security is an exemplar of interdisciplinary
learning. At each of the University's six professional schools, the Center
develops and expands on scientific research, health programs, policy development,
training, legal analysis and government consulting. Through the Center, students
have responded to innumerable requests from the city of Baltimore and surrounding
localities, the state of Maryland and the federal government to help with a
broad range of issues homeland security issues, such as planning for a potential
terrorism crisis or formulating policies for consequence management.
The School of Law's reliance on interdisciplinary instruction extends to
theatrical performances as well. Under the aegis of our Linking Law & the Arts
program, the law school holds panel discussions and other events in conjunction
with local artistic offerings. On one recent panel, Graham Burnett, a history
of science professor at Princeton University, led a discussion titled "The
Jury as Truth Finder: Fact or Fiction?" in conjunction with a performance of
the play 12 Angry Men at the Hippodrome Theatre. The Linking Law & the
Arts program seeks to use theater and art to help address complex legal, social,
and public policy issues, while using the lens of law and society to help the
public better understand theater and art.
Since the late 19th century, when Christopher Columbus Langdell developed
the casebook teaching method at Harvard Law School, the core elements of legal
education have remained largely unchanged. But today's law school graduates
must command a scope of knowledge that extends beyond the law to encompass
many other disciplines. By drawing on the wisdom and expertise of our academic
community, we seek to equip the next generation of lawyers for new professional
challenges with an innovative law school experience.
Karen H. Rothenberg, J.D., M.P.A. is Dean and Marjorie
Cook Professor of Law of the University of Maryland School of Law.