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Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Law Schools Should be Run for the Students and Not the Faculty"

Interesting article in Lawdragon:  Storming the Castle, by Katrina Dewey:

For 200 years, the pursuit of an education in the law has caused otherwise intelligent people to behave badly. Very, very badly. ...

[H]is bout of affliction at the hands of legal education caused Turow to press for changes so that others would not be similarly afflicted by what we will call Blackstone’s disease, generally identified in Stages 1 through 5, beginning with study for admission to the bar and ending in death. Always death. Over the years, a growing phalanx of practitioners cried ever more loudly that change was needed but were consistently met with a call over the castle wall: Hark, what sullen fellow (who, we might guess is lacking in intelligence and erudition) goes there?

Lawdragon spent the past six months studying the state of legal education in the United States and discovered that a revolution has occurred. Not surprisingly, dollars played a major role, specifically the salaries commanded by fledgling attorneys with no clue how to practice law. “Forget the Harvard and Yale head in the clouds types, give me six good, nonpampered graduates of Loyola or Miami,” had become an all-too-familiar refrain.

Dollars also mattered in the form of donations from alumni, many of whom still bore the marks of the lash. It’s one thing to love the church, another to support the catechism. And thus came reformation, fueled as well by common sense, competition from other disciplines, the oversaturation of ivory tower professors rewarded for arcania rather than teaching and a world of unlimited information that reduces to present time the value of precedent. ...

“The fundamental revolution in legal education is that even the elite law schools are beginning to recognize law schools should be run for the students and not the faculty,” Turow said in a recent interview. “It’s been a hard time coming.” ...

“To the extent that ‘One L’ was the first voice really raised that this can be better for students,” that’s gratifying. The revolution did not just crystallize schools’ primary focus as educating future practicing lawyers, it also changed how the law is taught — and perhaps even the law itself. The revolution found its foothold at schools that needed something instead of a top tier ranking to attract students. Schools established clinics offering real experience with real clients, founded interdisciplinary courses and brought in a range of practitioners who taught under the title adjunct.

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Comments

Just to be provocative, a counter-argument: the students are there for three years and have little ability to judge whether they are receiving a good or bad education. The professors are there for decades and their work may last for a much longer time. It sounds nice, but why is it so clear that universities should be run by or for the students themselves?

Posted by: Michael Livingston | Jun 29, 2007 3:48:16 PM

What nonsense. Turow writes fabulous novels about the practice of law and those who are affected by the law. Grisham could never approach this level of verisimilitude. (I gave up on reading Grisham's novels long ago, because Stephen King writes far better fantasy without any legal freight.) On serious stuff like the topic above, however, Turow unfortunately tends toward socialism, namely, norms and standards driven by a nanny-state ideological viewpoint, rather than free market precepts. Law students, perhaps more than any other graduate student constituency, are not foundlings who have no idea what they are getting into. $160K starting salaries at major law firms are what law students compete for nowadays. Not a bad gamble. If most law students devoted as much effort to studying the subject matter as they do complaining about their professors' ideosyncrasies, they would be better off in the long run. Law students are by no means an oppressed class.

Law profs might be.


Posted by: Jake | Jun 29, 2007 6:36:25 PM

Regulatory capture--that's the socialism problem in law schools.

Posted by: Harold Crick | Jun 29, 2007 9:34:04 PM