Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question: What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine?
A Practitioner's Advice to Erwin Chemerinsky:
Here's my thought for Dean Chemerinsky: Aggressively recruit adjunct faculty members from your local legal community -- to teach substantive classes.
Many law schools view adjunct faculty as cannon fodder. If the law school needs a dozen bodies to teach, say, legal writing or trial advocacy, it's worth a sweep through the local legal community to round up the necessary bodies. That is, however, the very least that adjunct faculty can do.
Scholars sometimes doubt whether full-time practicing lawyers have the time, inclination, and ability to teach real, substantive classes. Many practitioners don't, but enough do to make it worth the search. I have taught Advanced Civil Procedure on the adjunct faculty of Case Western Reserve University School of Law since 1997. During that time, a half dozen of my colleagues at Jones Day have asked whether similar opportunities might exist for them.
Expanding the adjunct faculty benefits both the local legal community and the law school. As any scholar knows, the best way to learn a subject is by teaching it. Employing practitioners on adjunct faculties thus improves the quality of the local bar.
The law school also benefits from this cross-fertilization. First, a law school can expand its course offerings to fields in which practitioners toil daily, but scholars are unlikely to tread. In many areas of law, the most interesting concepts come from experience, not book learning.
Second, practitioners bring a different approach to the law than scholars. People are naturally influenced by the lives they live. Folks who practice law will naturally teach differently than those who study legal issues from a more theoretical perspective.
Finally, enlisting practitioners on the adjunct faculty builds bridges that can benefit law schools in other ways. Firms and schools can co-host conferences; firms can suggest topics for events or provide speakers; lawyers may even be inclined to contribute money to law schools with which they have an on-going relationship.