Paul L. Caron

Monday, December 17, 2012

WSJ: Are Quirky 3L Electives a Waste of Time (and Money)?

Wall Street Journal:  Are Odd Electives a Waste? Third-Year Law-School Classes Often Delve Into Quirky Territory, Draw Criticism:

Amid weak demand for legal services and an oversupply of lawyers, law schools are emphasizing courses and clinics designed to give their graduates a chance to do hands-on lawyering before they enter the job market. But even as law schools labor to produce "practice ready" graduates, they have held tight to their more peculiar courses, usually taken in the third year. ...

  • Harvard:  Understanding Obama
  • Michigan:  Bloodfeuds
  • Stanford:  Legal Aspects of Autonomous Driving 
  • UC-Berkeley:  Effective and Sustainable Law Practice: The Meditative Perspective
  • Wake Forest:  Pornography and the Law

Law deans defend their elective courses as increasingly important to today's lawyer, who is expected to have a specialization, whether it is biotechnology or law for the elderly. "The future of law is actually about people who have multiple skill sets," said Frank Wu, dean of the University of California's San Francisco-based Hastings College of the Law. "The fact that something looks obscure doesn't mean it's impractical."

But that distinction could be lost on employers, particularly big law firms that pay best.

"If law schools want to employ the vast majority of graduating students then they should be offering mostly mainstream classes. I agree with Justice Scalia 100%: Stick to the basics," said Robert Carangelo, hiring partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

Update:  ABA Journal, Law Profs Defend Unusual Electives on Disputes from the Icelandic Age, Autonomous Driving

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Illinois: Readings in Nature and Culture and its companion course Readings in Nature and Culture II. Oh, and every crit. class. Do we really need to teach critical race feminism in law school? These courses belong in a liberal arts curriculum. Law school should teach you something about the law.

I like courses that aren't necessarily "bread and butter" legal courses because the discussion of law through a different lens can often lead to a deeper legal understanding. The "law and" movement has enriched legal education in many respects. Students in the courses I cited, however, rarely, if ever, mention any substantive legal discussions.

Posted by: ILL | Dec 18, 2012 2:18:21 PM

Thank the lord for 3Ls who along with the quirky, take tax clinic as they know something useful.

Posted by: Anthony E. Parent, Esq. | Dec 18, 2012 9:38:36 AM

Duke: Law of Slavery; Interracial Intimacies

Posted by: PLA | Dec 18, 2012 9:06:28 AM


Posted by: Jake | Dec 17, 2012 6:17:00 PM

Since when is a basic elder law course a quirky category?

Posted by: HTA | Dec 17, 2012 3:07:08 PM

Don't think that "Stanford: Legal Aspects of Autonomous Driving" belongs on this list ... kinda of an important thing going forward ...

Posted by: Daniel Martin Katz | Dec 17, 2012 1:18:05 PM