Legal education has long been criticized for failing to provide adequate professional training to prepare graduates for legal practice realities. Many sources have lamented the lack of sufficient attention to the range of competencies necessary for law graduates to be effective practitioners and develop a positive professional identity, including those that are intra-personal, such as self-awareness, critical self-reflection, and self-directedness; those that are interpersonal, such as deep and reflective listening, empathy, compassion, cross-cultural communication, and dialogue; and those that engage with the social/systemic dimension of lawyering, such as appreciating the role of multiple identities, implicit bias, privilege and power, and structural racism. For this article, we refer to this entire set of competencies as relational competencies. One notable exception to this sustained critique of legal education has been the field of clinical legal education, including law school clinics and externships. Nevertheless, what is still lacking is a more systematic approach to clinical law students' supervision around the knowledge, skills, and values connected to relational competencies. In this article, we aim to begin a conversation about how we can move to a competency-based approach to supervision of law students' in clinics and externships. We draw significant guidance from the field of psychology, where there is a well-established track record in using a competency-based approach to supervise trainees. By emphasizing the importance of relational competencies in legal education, we can more effectively promote well-being among students, their current and future clients, and the legal profession's culture. Ultimately, we hope to invite a broader conversation about a more holistic approach to legal professionals' licensing and ongoing supervision.
Susan L. Brooks, Marjorie A. Silver, Sarah Fishel, & Kellie Wiltsie, Moving Toward a Competency Based Model for Fostering Law Students’ Relational Skills, 28 CLINICAL L. REV. 369 (2022).
Clinical Law Review