SIMPLE + Standardized Clients

by Paul Maharg on 29/10/2009

Karen Barton, Michael Hughes and I are currently at Franklin Pierce Law Center,  in Concord, New Hampshire, working with John Garvey and others on SIMPLE projects.  The SIMulated Professional Learning Environment facilitates transactional learning between individual students or groups of students and staff, with students usually playing the role of practising lawyers.  SIMPLE can be used with any client-based professional transaction – it’s been used by disciplines as varied as Architecture and Management Science. 

 Karen and I have already worked with Franklin Pierce on the use of Standardized Clients in the training and assessment of students in interviewing.  The students are on the Center’s innovative Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program.  The Program is an alternative to the State’s regular Bar examination, and students are admitted upon successful completion of the Program. 

On this visit to New Hampshire, we’re helping the Law Center to produce two simulations in SIMPLE – one in personal injury and one in civil litigation – but what’s really exciting about this initiative is that John is aiming to combine Standardized Clients with SIMPLE – a world-first…  SCs will play key roles in SIMPLE simulations, such as clients or witnesses, and will perform the same roles of standardizing role-play and assessing student performance.  What we’re doing is combining two proven methods of simulation to give students a much more immersive simulation experience, while enhancing the formative feedback given to students and retaining standards in summative assessments.  For further information on the Daniel Webster programme and use of Standardized Clients at Franklin Pierce, see John’s paper on SSRN. SIMPLE will be used on the Program in the fall of 2010, and we’ll be analyzing and writing up the results. 

On a broader view, the SIMPLE and SC projects enhance a programme that is attempting to move away from conventional US law school education and Bar Examination.  As we know, there is a substantial literature describing L3 disengagement, alienation, boredom, cynicism.  The Daniel Webster programme implements much of the advice in the Carnegie report and Roy Stuckey’s Best Practices, and of course SIMPLE and the SC Initiative are eminently Deweyan in its approach and content. 

There are of course deeper implications.  If SIMPLE and SCs can be used in capstone projects, why can’t they be used in earlier years?  The Carnegie study acknowledges the power of the case-based method in first year JD pedagogy; but it could be argued that it is precisely because it is so powerful that it requires the balance of experiential learning right from the start.  It’s a move that will help to shift student attention from 1L grades and Law Review Editorial Board membership towards the complex human and ethical realities of legal practice – an approach Dewey would eminently approve. 

 For more information on Standardized Clients, see our Standardized Client Initiative blog; and for more on SIMPLE, see 


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