Sunday, September 30, 2007
Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question: What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine?
Michael J. Madison (Associate Dean for Research and Associate Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Editor, Madisonian.net blog):
The quality of the new lawyers who graduate from law schools depends heavily on the quality of the students that law schools enroll. So, for my single best idea, I would adopt something akin to the business school model of admissions.
Make clear to prospective applicants that incoming students should have a minimum of two years’ of experience in the world before enrolling in school. Expect some meaningful exposure to the ways of a community or practice other than one based on taking tests and writing papers. Given special cases and exceptions, in practice this would amount to a presumption rather than a hard and fast rule.
- Too many law students today are new college graduates who couldn’t think of anything better to do. Some of those students will be discouraged from applying, meaning that law schools end up with more engaged students.
- Other things being equal, engaged students with a bit of worldly experience are likely to turn out to be better and more satisfied lawyers, because learning and practicing law are so bound up with knowledge of the world at large.
- A law school that adopts this strategy may have a comparative advantage in placing its students with employers. Law firms are reluctant to hire “older” students, but they are also frustrated by the expense of having to train new lawyers in the art of being an independent, responsible adult. A different admissions strategy may save firms some of that pain.
For all the posts in the series, see here.