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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Telman: Law Schools Should Be More Like Liberal Arts Colleges

Jeremy Telman (Valparaiso) of our sister ContractsProf Blog has a thoughful series of posts on law school curricular reform. My favorite comment:

When I was a doctoral student, I was befriended by an emeritus professor who had taught at that institution for nearly seventy years.  He was a historian of international reknown in his field.  He had also chaired the department, been actively engaged in university administration and was the first chair of the Ivy League athletic eligibility committee. In addition, he had served for thirty-two years as the Mayor of the small town abutting the university.  

When I came to know him, he was at work on a history of the university.  He told me that the most important change that he had experienced during his career, which spanned most of the 20th century, was that the department had changed from one in which what mattered most was the esteem in which one was held by one's colleagues and students to one in which what mattered most was the esteem in which one was held by professors at other universities.  The change saddened him.  It diminished the place's sense of itself as a community defined by a spirit of collegiality and common purpose. 

I would like to see some law schools abandon the hope of being imitatio Harvards in favor of becoming imitatio Haverfords (or Oberlins or Grinnells, etc.).  Moreover, such a change is what our students need.  Increasingly, our students come to us without the benefit of a traditional liberal arts education that prepares them for the challenges of legal practice.  Legal education needs to provide that grounding in basic reasoning, professional development, and writing skills before we throw them into the world of practice.

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Comments

Law schools are already like liberal arts colleges: unless you attend an Ivy, you are unemployable.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Dec 19, 2012 8:51:32 AM

His argument presupposes that non-liberal arts majors lack basic reasoning, professional development, and writing skills. I don't know where these ill conceived notions come from. The liberal arts don't have a monopoly over basic reasoning skills. In regards to the other two points, I'd rather admit an engineer or accountant with a year of experience in the professional world than a liberal arts major. Engineers and accountants work in professional jobs, have clients, and learn technical writing. Liberal arts majors, in my view, have become increasingly worthless. I'm not sure how the intense study of Proust makes you a better lawyer. Perhaps it makes you a better human, but that's what general education credits are for.

Posted by: HTA | Dec 19, 2012 11:47:29 AM

@Unemployed Northeastern: Hilarious. That has to be the comment of the year here on the TaxProf Blog.

Posted by: Lt. Dangle | Dec 19, 2012 2:53:03 PM