Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Law School Curriculum Reform

Aals_8Like Vic Fleischer, I am off to Washington, D.C. for a two-day meeting of the AALS Committee on Curriculum.  (Tax Prof bloggers are certainly well-represented on the 9-person committee!).  We will be discussing a broad array of possible reforms to the law school curriculum in both the first year and upper years.  Our chair, Vanderbilt Dean Ed Rubin, recently hosted a two-day conference on Legal Education: Past, Present and Future (blogged here and here), which I suspect will animate our discussions.  Comments are open if folks want to weigh in on what they would do with the law school curriculum.

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The single most important subject not universally taught in law school, but univerally required in practice is negotiation. Yet, negotiation is at the heart of almost all transactional and litigation practice.

Almost all legal writing effort is devoted to appellate briefs, despite the fact that drafting transactional documents and corospondence is a key skill. (And, I have yet to see a law school teach you to write time entries.)

Law students should also spend at least some time observing court proceedings, in the devling tradition of the Scottish Bar.

In the area of ethics, while a great deal of time is spent teaching students what is and is not ethical, very little is devoted to dealing with unethical practice by other attorneys effectively.

In a related vein, the admissions process is entirely to concerned with academic ability. Yes, there is a threshold that is necessary, but it is hardly the only qualification for the job and an undue focus on that takes away from other traits like negotiation skills and interpersonal communication and bureacratic efficiency, which turn out to be very important as a practical matter.

Also, the lazy professor approach of having only a single evaluation in a term, usually in the form of an essay exam, needs to change. Regular feedback is pedagogically more sound.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jun 1, 2006 4:41:31 PM