Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed: Legal Education for All (or More Than Just Lawyers),
by Carol A. Parker (New Mexico):
While the need to acquire a working understanding of our laws and regulations seems only to grow, access to legal information is still largely kept at a premium by legal educators, who provide it almost exclusively through the juris doctor degree. Completion of this three-year professional degree is required by nearly every state to sit for attorney licensure examinations. However, the J.D. is less well suited to students who want simply to acquire legal knowledge. This is especially true as J.D. programs move toward a greater emphasis on experiential learning and on turning out practice-ready lawyers.
Nevertheless, enrolling in a J.D. program remains the primary means of obtaining meaningful knowledge about our legal system. In this respect the current American legal-education system forces one to choose between going without meaningful formal education in law or having to overconsume and overinvest in a degree best suited for those interested in becoming licensed lawyers. ...
The demonstrated benefits of double majors would apply to interdisciplinary legal studies as well. Including legal studies with the arts, sciences, and other professional programs would enhance development of critical reasoning and analysis skills, the ability to make connections across courses and subjects, and the ability to employ different intellectual perspectives.
An interdisciplinary approach would provide graduates of these new programs with greater access to the job markets of interdisciplinary partners—something that traditional joint degrees based on combining the J.D. program with master's degrees from other disciplines rarely do. New approaches could include professional certificates as well as master's-level degrees. Interdisciplinary programs would also set the stage for pipeline-to-graduate-degree programs based on baccalaureate studies, such as three-plus-two or four-plus-one programs.