In this Article, the author argues that where clinical education fits within the law school curriculum does not have to be viewed as simply a question of whether more skills training is needed to balance the theory of the traditional curriculum. The author posits that stating the question this way obscures the choices already made, as most types of legal education have elements of both theory and practice. However, how the terms “theory” and “practice” are defined strongly influences how various aspects of legal education are perceived. Therefore, the way we view clinical education depends as much upon the viewpoint of the observer as it does upon the intrinsic nature of the activity. The author argues that the division of legal education into theoretical and practical categories is not simply a reflection of the natural order, but is a choice. The author explores various views of what is meant by the terms “theory” and “practice” and argues that there is choice involved in the definition of these terms. Therefore, even if legal education is labeled as practical, the author posits that this label can mean something other than skills training. However, though clinical legal education can in fact be viewed in these different ways, it tends to be understood solely as a form of skills training, which is predominantly technical. The author subsequently concludes that this limited labeling of clinical courses results in other possibilities within the law school curriculum being ignored.
Mark Spiegel. "Theory and Practice in Legal Education: An Essay on Clinical Legal Education." UCLA Law Review 34, (1987): 577-610.