Law school-based practical legal education programs—commonly referred to as “Street Law” programs—are innovative programs in which law students teach non lawyers about law, the legal system, and the fundamental principles of democracy. Law students trained in interactive teaching pedagogy teach high school students, disadvantaged populations, and others the basic information, skills, and attitudes they need to thrive as active members of their society.
For example, in a Street Law class focused on contract law, the law student instructors explain in plain language the basics of a contract—what it is, what it is used for, and who enforces it—to build practical knowledge of the topic. Then, the participants engage in a simulated contract negotiation to put that knowledge into practice, develop their communication and advocacy skills, and foster an appreciation for cooperation and finding common ground.
Through this blending of legal content and interactive teaching strategies, program participants build their understanding of practical legal matters and develop the skills and attitudes they need to effectively engage in the democratic processes of their communities. The programs also offer positive outlets for young people to serve their communities and learn to manage conflict in socially acceptable ways, as well as a foundation for strong partnerships with other community and school-based citizenship programs. The programs benefit law students as well. Through preparing lessons and teaching, law students not only thoroughly learn the legal content but also develop and practice the fundamental lawyering skill of explaining complex legal concepts in language understandable to lay audiences.