TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Problem With Law Schools? They Only Prepare Future Lawyers, The Problem with Law Schools? They Only Prepare Future Lawyers:

Working in today’s legal market requires more skill than just knowing the law, but not all law schools have matched their curriculum to this changing marketplace.

“If you look at the legal market from the point of view of a law student, that is very far removed from the market you see,” said Jae Um, founder & executive director of  legal market insights company Six Parsecs, at the June 8 “Training the 21st Century Lawyer: Envisioning a Legal Industry Alliance” session of Thomson Reuters’ 2018 Legal Executive Forum in New York.

Um noted that the current model of education, which trains around “conceptual subject matter expertise,” is outdated, and what law schools need to do is focus more on teaching students how to work in today’s legal market. Such a market is defined by the recent rise of legal operation professionals, knowledge management staff, and e-discovery managers, all of whom play an integral part in law firms. The work of today’s lawyers and legal professionals, therefore, is as much about solving a client’s business and operational needs as it is their legal ones.

William Henderson, professor of law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, noted that the rise of these new and different types of law firm positions was proof that the industry had undergone a profound change, even if legal education hasn’t kept up.

“We don’t change very often. But when we change, we change in an order of magnitude that is fairly large,” he said at the forum. “And I hope legal education is on the brink of creating a different narrative.”

But while most law schools have yet to change, some are redefining legal education from the ground up. As an example, Henderson pointed to The Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP), an organization that partners with law schools, firms and corporations to create internships for law students. These internships count as part of students’ legal education, and include two legal operations and legal tech boot camps that help prepare the students for their internships.

The goal of the IFLP program is to create “T-shaped lawyers,” Henderson said, which means lawyers that have fundamental knowledge and expertise in one area, such as a legal subject matter, but also have general expertise in other areas such as business operations, legal technology and process design. The program is both “creating operational lawyers, some of whom are going to have a career in operations, analytics and so forth” and giving students the choice becoming a bespoke lawyer or another type of operational legal professional, he added.

Legal Education | Permalink


I challenge the assumption that law schools teach students to be lawyers. They do no such thing. They give some basic knowledge on reading cases, statutes and regs, but only a law prof would think they are teaching students to be lawyers. No way. Just isn’t happening.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 18, 2018 5:59:51 AM

"today’s legal market. Such a market is defined by the recent rise of legal operation professionals, knowledge management staff, and e-discovery managers, all of whom play an integral part in law firms. "

Read: today's law firm is one where non-lawyers shoulder an increasing percentage of the work, including much of what has traditionally been the petty training tasks of junior associates. Note: any correlation between this development and the continually diminishing number of FT/LT/license-required jobs reported by the ABA from one year to the next should be stricken from one's mind immediately because reasons.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jun 18, 2018 9:19:52 AM

There are fewer law graduates employed in FT/LT/bar passage jobs and more non-lawyer professionals employed by law firms because law graduates have more options. For instance, Stanford publishes the specific JD advantage and professional jobs that graduates pursue. Many Stanford graduates obtain JD advantage jobs as private equity associates or investment bankers. According to the salary data, some of these jobs paid more than entry level private practice jobs. Other Stanford graduates obtained tech jobs that were counted as professional positions. According to the 2016 NALP statistics, almost 20% of law graduates pursued these lucrative alternatives to practicing law. With so many law graduates pursuing JD advantage jobs and other professional opportunities, law firms have had to adapt and employ other legal professionals. Law schools do not need to change their curriculum. Employers already demand the skills that law schools teach to law students.

Posted by: reasons | Jun 19, 2018 3:42:13 PM

Yes, "reason," because Stanford is totally a representative law school with representative outcomes. Certainly the average Seton Hall Law graduate has equal opportunity to become an associate at a venture capital firm that is 100% comprised of Stanford, Harvard, and MIT grads, just as the community college grad can get a job at McKinsey or Goldman Sachs. Yup, in no way is this argument lazy even by your own anemic standards.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jun 21, 2018 8:33:35 AM