Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Scaling Langdell's Wall

William S. Bailey (University of Washington), Scaling Langdell's Wall, NW Lawyer, Mar. 2020, pp. 29-33:

ScalingIt never crossed my mind in law school that I might teach there one day. Intent on trying to change the world, my main goal in law school was to get in, and get out with a license to practice.

After moving to Seattle, taking the bar exam, and starting at The Defender Association, I was in court every day. I worried that my skills weren’t up to the challenge of the demanding caseload; I constantly sought feedback from judges and colleagues and studied trial advocacy techniques. It bothered me that so little of law school had prepared me for the actual work I was doing. There had been far too much Socratic method and far too little hands-on practice of the actual skills of lawyering. The conventional wisdom at the time, that “you learn how to be a lawyer after you get out,” made no sense to me. I expected law school, like medical school, to be more skills-based.

As I scrambled to fill the gaps in my practical skills, I continued to think about how law school could have been more useful. With youthful arrogance, I became convinced that I could help structure a better curriculum than the one I had known as a law student. ...

[A]fter decades of law practice and some part-time teaching of trial advocacy, I became of a full-time faculty member. This essay chronicles my journey and choices I have made as a teacher.

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Here’s a suggestion that I heard from a respected scholar at a US News top 35 school: reserve scholarship for the faculties at the top 15 or perhaps top 25 schools and market the remainder as true trade schools. What’s wrong with the medical school model? Ask employers, graduates and students—only tenured faculty would disagree. Scholarship should be subject to a market test, like almost everything else.

Posted by: Tom Sharbaugh | Jun 20, 2020 5:53:06 AM