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Friday, May 25, 2012

Rapoport: Rethinking Legal Education in Non-Elite Schools

Nancy B. Rapoport (UNLV), Changing the Modal Law School: Rethinking U.S. Legal Education in (Most) Schools, 116 Penn St. L. Rev. 1119 (2012):

This essay argues that discussions of educational reform in U.S. law schools have suffered from a fundamental misconception: that the education provided in all of the ABA-accredited schools is roughly the same. A better description of the educational opportunities provided by ABA-accredited law schools would group the schools into three rough clusters: the “elite” law schools, the modal (most frequently occurring) law schools, and the precarious law schools. Because the elite law schools do not need much “reforming,” the better focus of reform would concentrate on the modal and precarious schools; however, both elite and modal law schools could benefit from some changes to help law students move from understanding the theoretical underpinnings of law to understanding how to translate those underpinnings into practice. “Practice” itself is a complex concept, requiring both an understanding of the law and an understanding of how to relate well to others. Because law students may not understand how to relate well to those with different backgrounds from their own, law schools should do more to explain how one’s perspective is both limiting and mutable. Too many law schools suggest that students can “see” different perspectives by, essentially, merely thinking harder. The essay concludes with some suggestions regarding possible reforms of U.S. legal education, focusing primarily on the modal law schools.

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