February 21, 2013
Reis: Law Schools Under Siege
Robert I. Reis (SUNY-Buffalo), Law Schools Under Siege: The Challenge to Enhance Knowledge, Creativity, and Skill Training, 38 Ohio N.U. L. Rev. 855 (2013):
The Citadel of legal education stands besieged by attacks from students and practitioners alike regarding the lack of defined skill training in contemporary legal education. The belief is that graduates of law schools are not adequately prepared to practice law. This challenge to the model of legal education is not new. Law schools have historically focused on theory using readings and questioning to create the foundation and knowledge base of law and lawyering. That foundation has been shaken by diminished course requirements and an increase in attracting students and faculty by giving them the freedom to choose electives they may desire. At the same time, gaping holes in core knowledge requirements necessary to practice law may result. Students are under increasing financial pressures and uncertain futures. They face a myriad of distractions that affect the learning process and classroom attendance. Students have limited immersion and are barely insulated from the distractions of the world around them. Law school courses can bridge some of these issues if they are configured to engage the students and bring them back to the classroom in both body and spirit, as active participants in the learning experience. Law schools must focus their attention on requiring courses that provide a full and functional knowledge base necessary for all lawyers. They must, in this required course paradigm, include clear skill opportunities in courses, seminars, practicums, clinics, and, as this Article suggests, the newly formed Law School Law Firm, staffed by academic practitioners and requiring participation from all students in the final year. The Law School Law Firm should also provide the possibility of a fourth year of study, with tuition covered by the earnings of the Law Firm, as well as a stipend to qualified students who would earn an LL.M. in Practice and be deemed "certified for practice." This transition can bridge fluctuations in the market place for employment opportunities and produce “practice ready” graduates. The future of the law, education, and practice is clearly what we make of it today.
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