Published: Jan 25, 2023
What is Experiential Learning?
You may have heard the term experiential learning, but what exactly is it? Experiential learning started with John Dewey back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dewey was an educational reformer who felt students should learn through real life experiences to enable better retention of the material they were being taught.[i] In the 1970s, David Kolb took things further and developed the Experiential Learning Theory. Kolb’s theory has four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.[ii]
The goal of utilizing this theory is that active engagement in the learning process will create a better learning opportunity for the participants.
Experiential Learning in Law School
Experiential learning has long been a part of the law school curriculum by giving students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through internships, clinics, simulations, and other forms of practical training.[iv] These course offerings are designed to complement traditional classroom learning by allowing students to apply what they have learned in a real-world setting. In 2014, the American Bar Association Standard 303(a)(3) was added. The standard requires law students to complete six hours of experiential courses.[v]
Every law school has different course options to meet the ABA standard. One example of experiential learning is clinical education that allows students to work on real cases under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Clinics can cover a wide range of legal areas such as immigration, public interest, criminal defense, and more. This type of program gives students an opportunity to gain practical skills and experience while also providing legal services to underserved communities.
Another example is through internships and externships, where students can work in law firms, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and other legal settings. This allows students to gain experience in a specific area of law, such as corporate law or litigation, and provides an opportunity to network with professionals in the field.
You can also get your experiential learning through online course work. Simulation classes offer experience like contract drafting, financial transactions, and trial advocacy. Moot Court and Law Review participation also meet the criteria. No matter which offering you choose, experiential programs can offer a variety of benefits to students, including:
Overall, experiential learning in law school can provide students with valuable practical skills and experience that can help them succeed in their future careers. At the very beginning of your law school journey, make a plan on how to utilize the experiential courses offered at your school so you can land your dream job after graduation.[vi]
Experiential Learning after Law School
Experiential learning doesn't have to stop after law school. There are many opportunities for experienced lawyers to continue to engage in experiential learning to grow their careers and maintain their professional development.[vii] Some examples include:
Experienced lawyers have many ways to continue to engage in experiential learning to grow their careers and maintain their professional development. It’s also a great way to keep yourself engaged in the profession and to prevent stagnation and burnout.
[vi] Wang, A. (2022, March 22). Law School Solved: How to Make An Experiential Learning Plan That Will Get You Hired. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/law-school-solved-how-make-experiential-learning-plan-allison-wang/?trk=articles_directory
[vii] McWilliams, A. (2022, November 9). Experiential Learning for Grown-Ups: Personal growth doesn’t have to stop at graduation. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-awesome-career/202211/experiential-learning-grown-ups
It’s no secret that BigLaw firms draw many associates in with the lure of seriously big salaries. It’s also notable that BigLaw operates on a somewhat unusual salary structure; the associate salary scale is almost uniformly fixed and publicly known.
Internships are a reality that every student in their later years of school are faced with. While universities try their best to place students in their dream jobs, the question of what one’s dream job is continues to plague the minds of every student!
Is my dream job what I think it is, or is it something I am meant for but have never had the opportunity to experience? Well, maybe one of the best ways to find out would be to try out—and what better way to try out a “dream” job than having a small test run or, to put it differently, getting an internship in a field one aspires to be in.
Each year, Vault surveys thousands of current and former interns at more than 100 internship programs to create our annual Internship Rankings. Last year, we asked 12,000 interns to rate their programs in a variety of areas, including quality of projects, real-life experience, networking opportunities, training and mentoring, and more.