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Dean's Desk: IU McKinney is out in front with experiential learning

December 17, 2014

Dean Andrew KleinFor years we’ve talked about the advantages of the location of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. The words “steps away from the Statehouse” are practically a catch phrase, but the idea they convey is at the heart of what we do every day. Our school is proud to provide students the ability to study at the center of the state’s legal profession, with an array of opportunities to learn both inside and outside the classroom.

Students frequently tell us that “hands-on” experience makes classroom learning come alive. It also provides networks to help our graduates when they become job candidates, and ultimately it makes them better lawyers who stand apart from their peers.

Some of you may know that the American Bar Association recently enacted new standards related to legal education, one of which requires students to engage in experiential learning before they graduate. IU McKinney will be well ahead of that curve, and we are aiming to do even more going forward. For example, we recently organized our experiential learning offerings under one umbrella and are expanding the number of opportunities available to students. We now boast eight live-client clinics, including a new Conservation Law Clinic that launched in the fall 2014 semester. Our Program on Law and State Government offers placements at 56 different government offices. Our corporate and nonprofit externships include opportunities at Eli Lilly and Co., Ingersoll Rand, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Horizon League, IU Health, and USA Track & Field, just to name a few.

While one might expect the dean of the law school to brag about these kinds of things, it was particularly gratifying to recently hear our students do so themselves. Several weeks ago, the school hosted a series of online chats for prospective students. I took part, along with members of the school’s staff and some current students. The students’ enthusiasm about McKinney Law and its programs was infectious. One J.D. student talked at length about experiential learning, saying that “at McKinney, you can try your hand at so many different types of law – while you’re a student – to help you decide which career path you want to choose.” Another listed a host of externships and clinics in which she had participated during her time as a student. Listening to all of this confirmed what I already knew. We have been excelling at experiential learning for years – and we’re only getting better.

Addressing changes to ABA standards is just one way in which schools like ours are changing. Our LL.M and S.J.D programs continue to attract students from across the globe, and our students from outside the U.S. share their research and insights with fellow students as well as with the legal community at large. Our new Master of Jurisprudence, or M.J., program makes legal education accessible to those who do not want to practice law, but seek a deeper understanding of the legal system. Knowledge about the law is increasingly important to a variety of disciplines in the workplace, including the life sciences, social work, human resources, business and corporate affairs, real estate development, and journalism, among many others. Our first M.J. students entered the program last summer and are on their way to completing the 30 credit hours needed for the degree. We are the first law school in Indiana to meet the demand for this kind of legal education, something we are uniquely positioned to do given our urban location.

For years we’ve pointed to our graduates as evidence of the fact that IU McKinney is truly Indiana’s law school. Our alumni constitute more than half of the lawyers in the state. They are public servants in local, state and federal government. They preside on the bench at all levels throughout the judiciary. They lead nonprofit and corporate enterprises, and work in a host of other careers too diverse to list here.

Responding to the legal education needs of our students and the residents of Indiana is at the heart of our mission. We remain honored to be “steps away from the Statehouse” and so many wonderful members of the community.•

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Andrew R. Klein is the dean and the Paul E. Beam Professor of Law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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