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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mike Madison's Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky: Require Students to Have Two Years of Experience Before Enrolling

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?

Madison_2Michael J. Madison (Associate Dean for Research and Associate Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Editor, Madisonian.net blog):

The quality of the new lawyers who graduate from law schools depends heavily on the quality of the students that law schools enroll. So, for my single best idea, I would adopt something akin to the business school model of admissions.

Make clear to prospective applicants that incoming students should have a minimum of two years’ of experience in the world before enrolling in school. Expect some meaningful exposure to the ways of a community or practice other than one based on taking tests and writing papers. Given special cases and exceptions, in practice this would amount to a presumption rather than a hard and fast rule.

Why?

  1. Too many law students today are new college graduates who couldn’t think of anything better to do. Some of those students will be discouraged from applying, meaning that law schools end up with more engaged students.
  2. Other things being equal, engaged students with a bit of worldly experience are likely to turn out to be better and more satisfied lawyers, because learning and practicing law are so bound up with knowledge of the world at large.
  3. A law school that adopts this strategy may have a comparative advantage in placing its students with employers. Law firms are reluctant to hire “older” students, but they are also frustrated by the expense of having to train new lawyers in the art of being an independent, responsible adult. A different admissions strategy may save firms some of that pain.

For all the posts in the series, see here.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2007/09/mike-madisons-a.html

Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky, Law School | Permalink

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Comments

Is it really true that firms are reluctant to hire older students? If so, why?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 30, 2007 5:39:52 PM

Excellent idea.

Posted by: Jake | Sep 30, 2007 6:51:42 PM

How about a requirement that professors have two years' practice experience before being hired to teach? Expect some meaningful exposure to the ways of the legal community other than one based on clerking and writing papers. Given special cases and exceptions, in practice this would amount to a presumption rather than a hard and fast rule.

Posted by: andy | Sep 30, 2007 9:55:02 PM

Andy,
That sounds close to right to me. How about this? "Tenured and tenure-stream faculty with a primary appointment in the law school are expected to have worked in a non-academic professional setting for a minimum of two years, and preferably longer, prior to their initial faculty appointment."

Posted by: Mike Madison | Oct 3, 2007 11:27:40 AM

As an "experienced" (read: older) student, I like this idea. I saw this in practice when I was an undergraduate. We had some folks in our program who had spent a few years in the Navy before entering college, and they sailed through (no pun intended) the courses. This includes the junior- and senior-level math and physics courses that caused the rest of us "straight-throughs" so much stress.

And, of course, I'm hoping that 10+ years of work experience and 9+ years of performing Legislative, Judicial, and Executive duties for four sons will give me a similar advantage.

Posted by: Scott | Oct 5, 2007 9:34:33 AM