I think many aspects of the W&L program sound exciting. There
may be great arguments about implementing these kinds of curriculum
reform as part of the general modernization of higher education.
But one gets into much shadier territory to suggest any relationship
between these kinds of changes and employment outcomes. That is a
function largely of the changes in the macroeconomy. If law firms and
corporations need lawyers they will take on board all sorts of JDs and
train them as needed, which I witnessed first hand during the dot com
boom. When they don’t need them anymore they will get rid of them, as
some folks at Weil Gotshal discovered this week.
Suggestions that what academics do with law school curriculum can
impact overall employment remind me of those who argue that global
warming is man made. It seems reasonable until you realize the same
people making that case were advocates of global cooling thirty years
On the one hand [critics of legal education] all seem to agree that law schools should add
more experiential/clinical programming. And they also all definitely
agree that law school is too expensive. Yet they never seem to address
the fact that clinical and experiential programming is labor intensive
and therefore inherently expensive. There is, then, a contradiction at
the heart of the reformers’ cause.
If you look at the staffing of law schools over the last few decades the
single largest shift and likely contributor to increased costs has been
the expansion of clinical and experiential programs as well as the
expansion of adjunct teaching. ... Now there is some merit to this turn of events, undoubtedly. And if
there is one thing that is true, it is that it is responsive to student
But the university is not just a training ground – it is a distinct kind of institution
whose autonomy from society, and from the market and state, must be
protected. What those new law students do not know is what law practice
is really like. Once they graduate they will quickly find that the time
and space that a university setting provides for independent thoughtful
consideration of issues, concepts and theories will all too easily and
quickly dissipate under the pressures of the “real world.” They should be encouraged to take full advantage of the opportunity
to push off confrontation with that world while in school. Over the long
run the lessons learned during a period of contemplation will create
real value for them and for their clients.
is something we can agree on then I think it is much easier to examine
potential alternatives to the current law school curriculum.