September 28, 2007
Nancy Rapoport's Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky: Law as One Tool to Analyze a Client's Problems
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?
Nancy B. Rapoport (Gordon & Silver, Ltd. Professor of Law, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Las Vegas; former Dean, University of Houston Law Center and University of Nebraska College of Law; Editor, Nancy Rapoport's Blogspot and MoneyLaw blogs):
Erwin has a unique opportunity to have a powerhouse school filled with scholars who will be excited about starting up new traditions. My hope is that the overall ethos at the school will recognize that law is a tool for analyzing problems, but it is by no means the only tool. Sometimes, it's not even a necessary tool. (Sacrilege!)
Too often, law students get the impression that knowing "the law" -- even knowing the legal theory underlying the law -- is sufficient to provide clients with meaningful answers to their problems. Instead of being able to say, "After reviewing your situation, I think that you should do X," law school graduates are saying, "Well, these cases say Y." That's not a sufficient answer to most complex problems.
Law is often part of the answer, but it's rarely a complete answer to a client's problems. Those problems are affected by other, sometimes competing, factors: the client's business needs, as well as any psychological and social pressures that the client is facing. I believe that students, in their final year of law school, should know some basics: economics, accounting, psychology, and sociology (especially group dynamics). And no law student should graduate if he or she can't write well. Period.
The faculty of Erwin's new school will, I hope, be true MoneyLaw hires: hired more for what they've proven that they can do than for what their credentials predict that they will do. If some of them have an interdisciplinary bent, so much the better.
For all the posts in the series, see here.
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In light of the WSJ article on diminished prospects for graduates of non-elite law schools blogged on Sept. 24, my advice to Prof. Chemeinsky would be: Don't.
Posted by: Jim Bryce | Sep 28, 2007 1:44:46 PM