When the Guide refers to “you”, it speaks directly to law students. Some of the terms used in the Guide may be unfamiliar. They refer to a theory of learning from the field of education that recognizes the benefits of following specific reflective strategies to learn from experience.

Educational experts have been studying experiential learning for some time and know the steps that lead to professional success. This Guide builds on those educational theories, adapting them for law students. Additional references and resources can be found at the end of the Guide.

Frequently used terms

Experiential learning

“Experiential learning” emphasizes the importance of reflecting on individual experiences, observing outcomes and drawing conclusions, to allow an individual to try the experience again (experimenting), and effectively learn from both successes and mistakes.

Work-integrated learning (WIL)

“Work-integrated learning (WIL)” is any placement that integrates learning in the workplace (practical learning) with theory. The key is that the individual learns from experience, guided by theoretical and practical concepts.Footnote1

Learning through reflection on doing

“Learning through reflection on doing” taking a moment to reflect on what a person is experiencing, thinking and doing before, during, and after an encounter or a task helps to develop professional insight and build skills more quickly.

Reflective practice

“Reflective practice” is a professional learning theory that is critical to building competence and developing professional expertise and identity. At its simplest, it is about developing the ability to analyze experience, thoughts and actions to ensure continuous learning. As a discliplined and systematic strategy for learning, reflective practice develops professional expertise. This requires integrating theory (technical knowledge) and practice. Becoming critically reflective is also important to the practice of law, as well as nurturing self-reflection to ensure professional integrity, ethics and emotional and mental wellness.Footnote2

Cultural competency

“Cultural competency” in the legal context requires legal professionals to reflect on their own identity and biases, and how these impact their work with clients and others. Improving cultural competency helps a legal practitioner to appreciate and recognize the client’s needs and goals, and the systemic issues raised by the client’s social markers. It can help to identify important issues that may not be initially apparent or explicitly raised by the client, and establish trust and a good rapport.Footnote3