Robert Condlin (Maryland), 'Practice Ready Graduates': A Millennialist Fantasy:
The sky is falling on legal education say the pundits, and preparing “practice ready” graduates is the best strategy for surviving the fallout. This is a millennialist version of the argument for clinical legal education that dominated discussion in the law schools in the 1960s and 1970s. The circumstances are different now, as are the people calling for reform, but the two movements are alike in one respect: both view skills instruction as legal education’s primary purpose. Everything else is a frolic and detour, and a fatal frolic and detour in hard times such as the present.
No one would dispute that the United States legal system has a labor market problem, but law schools cannot revive the labor market, or improve the employment prospects of their graduates, by providing a different type of instruction. Placing students in jobs is a function of a school’s academic reputation, not its curriculum, and the legal labor market will rebound only after the market as a whole has rebounded (and perhaps not then). The cause of the present troubles is a lack of jobs, not a lack of graduates (of any kind), and producing more “practice ready” graduates will have no effect on the supply of jobs. The proposal is a spectacular non sequitur to the present troubles.
The concept of “practice ready” also is unintelligible and would be impossible to implement if it were not. There are as many different types of practice, for example, as there are levels of readiness for it and proponents of the proposal do not say which of these various possibilities (and combinations of possibilities), they have in mind. If the expression had a clear meaning, law schools still could not implement it because proficiency at practice depends upon dispositions (i.e., habits informed by reflection), and dispositions take longer than a law school course to develop. Like a lot of blog commentary, the “practice ready” proposal is more slogan than idea. Perhaps that is why it is so popular.
Wall Street Journal, The Practice-Ready Law Graduate is a ‘Fantasy,’ Says Professor:
The rupture in the legal job market has provoked a lot of soul
searching about the mission of law schools. Perhaps the most popular
idea that’s emerged is the notion that schools should focus more on
training students to be “practice ready” lawyers.
Schools have been urged to offer more clinics, simulations and “externships,” or in the words of former New York State Bar Association president Vincent E. Doyle III, to “look outside the classroom and focus on real world opportunities.”
In a new paper, University of Maryland law professor Robert Condlin takes aim at the “practice ready” concept, arguing that it’s a nostrum that won’t cure the ills of legal education.
Mr. Condlin’s basic point is that the market forces roiling BigLaw
are beyond the control of law schools and that the second-guessing about
what they ought to be teaching is a “non sequitur.” ...
Mr. Doyle, a commercial litigator in Buffalo, thinks Mr. Condlin has his head in ivory towers. “The academic world has a feeling that what they do in law school is
something different than preparing people for the practice of law,” he
told Law Blog. “It’s very hard for those of us who practice law to
understand that attitude.”