How Should We Assess Interviewing and Counseling Skills?
AbstractThe need to teach interviewing and counseling skills has long been established among clinical legal educators. Even among our non-clinical colleagues, these skills are recognized as integral to competent lawyering. While there remains considerable difference of opinion within the United States as to whether teaching such skills should be in a required course or simply be available as an elective, there is no doubt that a twenty-first century American law school must include the teaching of these skills in its curricular array.This paper first briefly describes the structure of legal education in the United States (insofar as clinical and skills teaching is concerned) and the almost total absence of any bar admission training or apprenticeship requirements. If the law schools are not required to fully train all future lawyers and the bar admission authorities likewise disavow responsibility for doing so, should clinical law professors assume the burden? I then go on to discuss the primary clinical evaluation technique of directly observing the student's performance, sometimes referred to as the gold standard method of assessment. Against the backdrop of the assertion that it is beneficial to use multiple methods of assessment, I then describe the several methods I have used to address the question of how best to assess interviewing and counseling skills. As an aside, it becomes clear that much more empirical analysis is in order.
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