Thursday, October 4, 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?
Brian L. Baker (Director of the Law Library & Professor of Law, San Joaquin College of Law; Editor, Director's Blog):
It is all about classroom instruction. Hire the best teachers and tie tenure to teaching. With growth, add researchers and seminar courses, and expand tenure so excellence, in teaching or research, is equivalent. Those preferring teaching should do so unfettered by publish or perish. Those preferring niche areas of law should do so unfettered by grading 70+ exams a semester.
The poor writing students bring to law schools today makes a Legal Writing program a "no brainer." Credit levels should rise to reflect the remedial writing instruction that is now the norm. Research instruction should also be expanded. It should be embarrassing that "Advanced Legal Research" programs are a rehash of basic research skills that weren’t learned as a 1L.
Invite the outside in, constantly. Represent all the community. A lecture series entertains students and brings outsiders in to see a law school in action. Promote intellectual diversity. Start a Federalist Society and an American Constitution Society. Start La Raza and BLSA chapters. Provide opportunities for religious groups to meet and gender related groups to thrive. As these groups grow and intermingle, a community will be formed. This community will look back on law school fondly, and help financially, or otherwise, sooner than you imagine.
Look at the temperament of your administration. Nothing stops future giving quicker than administrators who act arbitrarily. Many of us are egoists. It comes with the territory. Deans must find those that can put egos aside for the good of the school.
Students spend a lot of time learning to be law professors and not to be lawyers. This must change. Skills programs and excellent teaching help fix this problem. Communities that believe in themselves and trust administrators solve many other problems.
For all the posts in the series, see here.