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Monday, October 1, 2007

Gail Heriot's Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky: Rethink Three Common Assumptions About Law School

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?

HeriotGail Heriot (Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law; Editor, The Right Coast blog):

Here’s my advice: Get a new name. Not literally, of course. But like a king who adopts a new name upon assuming the throne, a new dean should leave his old reputation and alliances behind and take a fresh look at things.

Among the common assumptions that could use some re-thinking

  1. 1.  “Race-based admissions help minorities.” That’s not what Richard Sander’s research shows. His findings indicate that more African-American law students would have graduated and passed the bar if they had attended schools at which their academic credentials matched those of other students. Some people have rejected Sander’s conclusions, but they would be more persuasive if some of them weren’t actively trying to prevent him from continuing his research.

2.  “The best curriculum is one that allows faculty members to teach what they feel passionate about.” Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so? And isn’t it interesting how often law professors declare that what they want is in the institution’s interest?

3.  “The $150,000 spent on coming to law school is money well spent.” Well, for some it is, but not for others. Unfortunately, law schools are misleading some of these students. Published figures about average salaries and placement rates are largely fictional. I’m not just talking about marginal schools; even elite schools are contributing to the problem. If corporate CEOs marketed securities the way law schools market legal education, they’d be jailed.

But remember, you needn’t literally get a new name. King Erwin I will do nicely.

For all the posts in the series, see here.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2007/10/gail-heriots-ad.html

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Comments

"Published figures about average salaries and placement rates are largely fictional."

Thank you for mentioning the elephant in the law school classroom.

Posted by: Russ | Oct 2, 2007 4:01:16 AM