Combining Legal Research Pedagogy, Pro Bono and Experiential Learning in the First Year Curriculum at the University of Tennessee
Over the past five years at The University of Tennessee College of Law in our 1L two-semester legal research course we’ve incorporated an experiential learning component for first year students designed to instill an early appreciation of the importance of pro bono service to the legal profession. Partnering with pro bono non-profit legal aid organizations, we designed a 1L legal research second semester project tasking student “law firms” with researching real day to day legal issues, drafting an objective written file memorandum describing their research findings and orally presenting their written research findings to their respective pro bono client attorneys. This is a partnership that most legal service providers and students are eager to enter into: the legal service entities provide discrete topics of legal need; the students research those topics; the students draft memoranda addressing the legal issues; the legal service entities provide further direction and commentary on the legal memoranda; law librarian faculty review the legal memoranda; and the legal service providers ultimately obtain quality work product that fills a need in their organizations.
The primary goal of our one-hour session embraces helping other law schools replicate or create hybrid programs similar to ours that will seamlessly fit with their respective curriculums. In a succinct PowerPoint presentation we will share the history and evolution of the project, cover the intricacies of working with Pro Bono partners from finding suitable partners to vetting their legal issues to certifying complete coverage of the legal research pedagogy introduced in the first semester of law school.