Document Type


Publication Title

Clinical Law Review

Publication Date



This article explores the relationship between students' knowledge of underlying legal doctrine and their ability to learn effective methods of practice in law school skills courses. One of the primary goals of skills training in law school, especially clinical legal education, is to teach students how to apply what they have learned in doctrinal courses in the “real world.” While much has been written about training students in proper methods of practice and problem solving in skills courses, little attention has been paid to the significance of doctrinal knowledge to this training. Reviewing recent cognitive psychology research on the development of expertise and creativity, and in particular, a number of empirical studies examining the development of clinical skills in medical education, this article concludes that basic knowledge of substantive legal doctrine is a necessary prerequisite to learning effective legal practice. Skills law teachers, for the most part, have incorrectly downplayed that role. The article concludes by proposing some curricular changes in skills and clinical programs to take into account the role that legal doctrine performs in learning effective methods of legal practice and suggests future empirical studies on the relationship between legal doctrine and skills training in the legal education setting.



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