Friday, November 25, 2011
For years, [law firms] simply bought whatever law schools were selling. Instead of expecting the schools to teach J.D.'s practical skills, they treated them as glorified head-hunting services from which they could draw raw talent. ... To this day, hiring partners at elite firms still mostly look for students with high GPAs and law journal experience--experiences that, as Megan McArdle would tell you, were probably pretty similar to their own.
So firms have reinforced the very education system they now say falls short. The schools haven't had an incentive to rethink their model. And while the bad press may force reform around the edges, it's hard to imagine the legal academy making wholesale changes on its own accord. After all, it's been working on the same basic model for more than a century. ...Imagine what would happen if a coalition of elite law firms approached every Ivy League law school and gave them an ultimatum: Change your curriculum, or in five years we will stop hiring your graduates. They could just as easily go to a group of lower-ranked law schools and offer to start hiring more graduates if they make the same curriculum changes. It would require accepting the possibility of hiring outside of the most elite institutions. But frankly, that might add some much needed diversity to firms anyway.
I imagine the results would be dramatic. In the end, the most important thing to a law school's reputation these days is who hires its students. And where the Ivies go, the rest of legal academia will go.