Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Redding: Law School Reforms Will Harm Law Students and the Legal Profession

Richard E. Redding (Vice Chancellor, Chapman), The Legal Academy Under Erasure, 65 Cath. U. L. Rev. ___ (2015):

We hear much about the crisis in legal education: high tuition costs, steep declines in law school enrollment, and graduates unprepared for practice who cannot find jobs. Proposals to address the crisis appear to enjoy wide support and may be poised to dramatically change the landscape of legal education. Such reforms will harm law students and the legal profession, placing the legal academy “under erasure,” by: (1) reorienting it from an academically-grounded education towards vocational training, (2) requiring just two years of study for the J.D. degree, (3) allowing graduates of non-ABA accredited law schools to sit for the bar examination, thereby rendering accreditation a toothless mechanism for ensuring academic quality, and (4) gutting faculty scholarship.

Instead, we must make the value of legal education worth its cost by doing a better job of educating and training our students. Legal education is broken because it fails to prepare students for the demands of modern law practice, which is more complex and interdisciplinary than ever before. We need a three-year program that is more robust, one that teaches the core first-year subjects as well as applications of other disciplines (e.g., accounting, economics, psychology) to everyday law practice, exposes students to a reasonable range of specialty areas, and integrates skills training (e.g., client counseling, advocacy, drafting) throughout the curriculum. To accomplish these goals, we should adapt the medical school model to legal education. This would entail a curriculum that provides a comprehensive foundation in basic legal subjects and legally relevant other disciplines, culminating in a series of clinical rotations where the basic doctrinal and interdisciplinary knowledge is applied in practice. I also explain why we should not gut support for faculty scholarship in the hopes that doing so will cut costs and encourage professors to focus on teaching. Contrary to popular claims, engaged scholars are better teachers, and legal scholarship can contribute meaningfully and substantially (though often in ways not readily apparent) to law practice and legal reform efforts. Finally, I suggest that we address the employment problem and improve educational quality by having fewer but better law schools, producing fewer attorneys.

Legal Education | Permalink


“There is no better way to stay current in a field than by grappling with the
sorts of questions one must when undertaking scholarly work . . .” Only an academic would write something like this. Dean Redding continues with “Yet, law schools must be academic entities in addition to professional schools training students for practice.” Why is this so Dean Redding? Both of these statements would be true if the primary function of a law school were to produce law professors. But that is not the primary function of a law school; the PRIMARY function of a law school is to produce practicing lawyers. Finally, Dean Redding plaintively asks, “if law professors do not produce scholarship about the law, who will?” The simple answer to this rather pointless question is: liberal arts professors–properly educated in empirical research–in the related fields of political science, economics, government, psychology, sociology, history, and other social sciences.

Posted by: Publius Novus | May 21, 2014 7:16:31 AM

I vote we adopt the med school model for funding research and scholarship. Tuition gets slashed, salaries get cut, and you get to write a grant application to see if you get to engage in your "scholarship." Man, do I have increasingly little respect for law faculty. And they weren't good when I attended many years ago.

Posted by: Jojo | May 21, 2014 4:58:09 AM

"Finally, I suggest that we address the employment problem and improve educational quality by having fewer but better law schools, producing fewer attorneys"

Oh? Please, tell me more. Now about that tuition issue.....

Posted by: No, breh. | May 20, 2014 2:46:11 PM

Even if every single graduate was the smartest, most well trained, practice ready lawyer, it still DOESN'T CREATE JOBS. You don't need 40,000 chefs when there are only 20,000 restaurants. There is such a disconnect here...funny how the Dean says it will "harm" students, as if the $200k loans haven't been harmful enough. Chapman, is it even accredited by the "ABA", seems like a dean of a 4th tier school should not be so proud of being accredited.

Posted by: anon | May 20, 2014 1:31:35 PM