Sunday, August 28, 2011

What law schools accomplish: Part I -- Edification

Law schools perform four primary tasks, two of which they recognize, and two of which remain for the most part repressed or denied.  The two recognized tasks are edification and vocational training. The  two repressed functions of law school are social sorting and ideological legitimation.


Edification

From a comparative law perspective, the legal professionalization process in the United States is almost unique in that in the vast majority of cases it requires people to experience, or at least purchase, seven years of higher education.  Even if we limit our perspective to the Anglo-American common law system, it's important to note this is a very recent development (for 90% of that history the Anglo-American legal world got along without anything resembling this requirement).  The key question about the modern American law school is, what exactly is it doing or supposed to be doing that justifies a requirement that is so extraordinary in both cross-cultural and cross-historical terms?  To reply "preparing law students to become lawyers" is a banal generality that tells us nothing useful.  How are we preparing law students to become lawyers, and why are we doing it in this way or ways?

For complicated historical reasons, the vast majority of ABA-accredited law schools (since the need to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school creates a barrier to entry to the legal profession almost everywhere in the USA I'm going to limit the discussion to such schools for now) are units of research universities, while the relatively few that are not are as a practical matter required to imitate the rest.  Because we've become so accustomed to it, it's easy to overlook that the single most crucial aspect, from an economic perspective, of the ABA accreditation regime is that it requires these units to be post-graduate schools, meaning of course that law students must acquire undergraduate degrees before beginning their formal legal education. Given what actually goes on in law schools, this requirement ought to be treated as puzzling and problematic, rather than, as is typically the case, self-evidently desirable.

Very little of what goes on in law schools seems to have any direct relation whatsoever to the task of teaching somebody how to do the things lawyers do.  Law schools don't teach people how to practice law, except by what appears to be accident ("[Law] schools teach skills in isolation from actual lawyering experience. 'Legal reasoning' is sharply distinguished from law practice, and one learns nothing about practice. This procedure disables students from any future role but that of an apprentice in a law firm organized in the same manner as a law school, with older lawyers controlling the content and pace of depoliticized craft-training in a setting of intense competition and no feedback." Duncan Kennedy wrote this in 1981, and with some marginal exceptions it remains true thirty years later).

Since law schools don't engage in anything that looks much like vocational training, and since they're either parts of research universities or imitating schools that are, the natural default justification for requiring three years of postgraduate education before someone can become licensed to practice law is that law school is at bottom an extension of the student's previous university experience.  Law schools have ended up embracing that justification, although in a somewhat ambivalent and conflicted way.

The traditional rationale for the current structure of American legal education is that it imparted a special and rather mysterious set of intellectual (as opposed to narrowly practical) skills, known as "thinking like a lawyer."  The idea was that mastering the science -- and it was originally conceptualized by Langdell, the founder of the case method, as a science -- of doctrinal case analysis would mold the mind of the adept from its original mushy state into a kind of ruthless steel trap, capable of impressive feats of rigorous logical deduction and categorical distinction, and thus enable the successful student to extract true and correct statements of what the law required out of what to the uninitiated appeared to be a mass of chaotic and contradictory materials.

The Langdellian model of legal education provided law schools in general and law professors in particular with such a flattering account of what they were doing -- law was conceptualized as the correct judgment regarding what judges said about what the law was, and law professors appointed themselves the judges of the judges -- that to this day it still dominates American law schools, both in terms of pedagogy and, more important, in regard to an implicit jurisprudential vision of what "the law" actually consists of.  When American law professors talk about "the law," they're usually talking about the legal doctrines promulgated by appellate courts (indeed they almost always mean federal appellate courts, and usually the Supreme Court.) 

The Langdellian vision of what "the law" is has, however, a distinct disadvantage from the perspective of the larger university, which is that it's almost complete nonsense.  Indeed this awkward fact was noted within just a few years of its institutional triumph: The single most famous law review article ever written, Holmes's The Path of the Law, is essentially a 20-page demolition of everything Langdell believed.  In the 112 years since, Langdellian doctrinalism has been declared dead countless times, by sociological jurisprudence, legal realism, law and economics, critical legal studies, post-critical realism, post-real criticism, and the thousand and one flavors of "law and."  On one level nobody believes in Langdellianism any more ("we are all realists now") and on another level nothing has changed: legal education in America consists largely of purporting to extract True Propositions of Law from the rigorous analysis of appellate court doctrine (this is what law professors still mean, to the extent they mean anything at all, when they ask their confused and bemused students whether a case has been "correctly decided.").

Nevertheless.  The intellectual absurdity of the Langellian vision also gave birth to, and continues to sustain, the endless critiques of it within the law school. The thousand and one varieties of "law and" are all at bottom attempts to at their most ambitious (realism in the 1930s, critical legal studies in the 1970s) supplant, and more often supplement or ameliorate, Langell's vision of law with something more academically respectable. And these attempts have certainly borne much fruit. A good amount of serious academic work has been done in law schools over the past few decades in particular, and this at times has had good effects in the classroom as well, assuming (and this is an enormously important assumption) that it makes sense for law school to be a three-year continuation of liberal arts education.

Unfortunately, it doesn't make sense.  The problem with "law and" is not primarily that much so-called "interdisciplinary" or "theoretical" or "impractical" -- as if three years of doctrinal case analysis were practical! -- scholarship is bad. The problem is that, given what has become the economic structure of contemporary legal education, it is at bottom an exercise in self-indulgence on the part of the faculty who engage in it (who would be getting paid half or one third as much to do the same thing in other parts of the university, assuming they could get hired to do so).  The vast majority of law students are in no way interested in paying $150,000 for a three-year continuation of their liberal arts education. They didn't go to law school because they wanted to go to graduate school to study law.  They went to law school (leaving aside those who are killing time because they have no real idea what they want to do) because they were presented with a barrier to entry to the practice of law that required them to go to school for three more years, period, full stop.

I should make it clear that I'm a big believer in the value of liberal education.  I believe that a reasonably well educated citizenry is far preferable to an ignorant and credulous one.  I believe in learning for its own sake. I believe the children are our future.  That said, there's no justification for forcing  people to have seven years of post-secondary liberal education rather than four as a precondition to becoming licensed to practice law.

If the justification for the current structure of legal education in America is intellectual rather than vocational, then that justification fails for two reasons. It fails because all the traditional rigamarole about how we teach our students to "think like lawyers" is wildly overblown.  There is a certain value to teaching somebody the basics of doctrinal case analysis, especially if, like approximately .1% of attorneys, that person is going to spend a lot of time arguing or deciding appellate court cases -- but this can be accomplished in three months not three years.  There is a great deal of value to engaging in the serious study of law as a graduate school subject, or series of subjects, but the idea that in the United States right now 150,000 people should at any given time be in the equivalent of Legal Graduate School is obviously insane on its face.

Forcing people to spend $100,000 or $150,000, or $200,000 to learn the basics of doctrinal case analysis, or to engage in a three-year graduate school experience (or, as is the case at most law schools today, to  endure a half-baked combination of these two largely contradictory educational programs) is, under current economic and social conditions, less justifiable than ever.

84 comments:

  1. I got a shitload of practice stuff taught to me in law school, I would say the Langdellian stuff criticized here and practice stuff was divided maybe 60-40 in terms of how I spent my time? Maybe more like 90-10 in 1L. But we were standing in front of profs and arguing a position for a fictional client from week two. I'm shocked to learn this is not how other schools did it. (I went to a state law school, I don't even know the tier and at this late date really don't know if it matters much.)

    I can't remember anyone ever asking me if a case was "correctly decided" even in the appellate-focused part of the experience. I don't even know what that means. I assume it means "my client won".

    I think the "law and" classes derided here have an effect beyond mere (?) study in the grad school style and beyond vocational education. The ones I experienced covered two areas that turned out to be useful. One was ethical. The other was filling in gaps in my undergraduate experience. I went into law school with a mathematics degree, for chrissakes, what did I know about drugs, the War on (Some People Who Use Some) Drugs, or the realities of child abuse? Nothin'. Do those things effect my daily practice? Oh my god. Unbelievably so.

    ReplyDelete
  2. (Maybe my perception is skewed because I was a shitty law school student too. I didn't make law review and breezed out with a C+ average. Maybe that's because of how I allocated my time!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. As I hope is not disputed, lawyers are the most derided and criticized of all professionals. They are viewed as scum, liars and/or idiots, and have been viewed as such for literally hundreds (if not thousands) of years. I hope I don't have to start pulling passages from books, movies and TV shows to prove this widely accepted point. This reputation is not surprising. A lawyer's job is to lie. They like to call this advocacy, but the lawyer's job is to promote all of the facts that help their client and crush the facts that hurt their client, the truth be damned. Their job is to commit fraud. We saw this in the Casey Anthony trial most recently, but it's certainly not the first time. This happens every day in court.
    So, if lawyers are basically fraudulent scum, can it be surprising that their educational system too would be fraudulent and scummy?
    Above you write, "doctrinal case analysis would mold the mind of the adept from its original mushy state into a kind of ruthless steel trap, capable of impressive feats of rigorous logical deduction and categorical distinction, and thus able to extract true and correct statements of what the law required out of a mass of what to the uninitiated appeared to be a mass of chaotic and contradictory materials."
    Let me offer another explanation: In med school you get an exam every week and the professor has to write and grade that exam. In law school you get one lazy exam per semester. In med school you get hands on lab experience every day of your education. In law school professors stick to "I lecture you listen" lazy teaching. I could go on and on. Law professors are lazy, but rather than admit this, their lawyerly nature causes them to fraudulently sell you the idea of the “steel trap mind” (LOL!) to hide their opportunism.
    To put it another way - how much of the legal academic scam is caused by the fact that it’s LEGAL academics? If you were in hell, being taught by the devil and his minions, would you expect it to be a fair and good experience? No. So why do you expect that of an education from lawyers?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your school, JDCorley?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Needless to say, "thinking like a lawyer" did not begin with Langdell:

    Coke further stated that "The common law protecteth the King", to which James replied "The King protecteth the law, and not the law the King! The King maketh judges and bishops. If the judges interpret the laws themselves and suffer none else to interpret, they may easily make, of the laws, shipmen's hose!". Coke rejected this, stating that while the monarch was not subject to any individual, he was subject to the law. Until he had gained sufficient knowledge of the law, he had no right to interpret it; he pointed out that such knowledge "demanded mastery of an artificial reason ... which requires long study and experience, before that a man can attain to the cognizance of it".

    ReplyDelete
  6. "A lawyer's job is to lie. They like to call this advocacy, but the lawyer's job is to promote all of the facts that help their client and crush the facts that hurt their client, the truth be damned. Their job is to commit fraud."

    Fortunately, in court you have someone there to present the other side which balances this out. You didn't have that in law school, until the scamblogs came along.

    ReplyDelete
  7. 9:55

    But how much did you really learn about practice? Did you do a ton of research and edited writing? Information about your jurisdiction's individual procedures and requirements to file an action or at least the resources to quickly find that info? How to find, interview, and deal with clients (because without clients a lawyer is nothing unless you work for the government or as a cog in a large firm, something most law students have no shot at doing)? The logistical requirements for starting your own practice?

    ReplyDelete
  8. A question that seems to underlie the OP is how much and what kind of schooling should someone get before entering practice as a lawyer?

    As Law Prof points out, there is a particular way of analyzing cases and statutes that needs to be learned -- and I agree that it can be learned in three months (one semester).

    There is a also a mass of doctrine that one needs to master: the substance of the standard 1L courses. As is currently the case, learning the analytical technique can be combined with learning the doctrine.

    Plus, students need to learn how to do legal research, and even students who are already good writers need to learn how lawyers write. That way that's done now could use improvement, but it shouldn't take more time than it currently does.

    That's pretty much the 1L year as it is now. There's additional doctrine that's not usually covered in 1L year but is still useful, depending on one's area of practice (UCC, tax, evidence, bus orgs), but that could be accomplished in straight lecture courses without replicating the 1L experience.

    So the minimum would be 3 semesters post-undergrad?

    ReplyDelete
  9. University of Arizona. And to answer 10:15's questions:

    Re: research and edited writing. Yes, in fact there were more opportunities for this than I took advantage of, which I regret now.

    Local jurisdictional procedures, yes to a degree (less focused on how to go and find out). I still had to learn where to sit in each courtroom! I'm assuming we're omitting clinical experiences from this breakdown, by the by.

    Interviewing clients, yes to a degree, we had role-played scenarios and critiques afterwards, it wasn't a full class though. This one was really pushed into the clinical area, and the clinics made it very easy to just dip your toe in. I did about 4 sessions at the homeless law clinic and there's nothing like interviewing a drunk 8th grade dropout about the ambulance company who is hounding them for $45,000. (Collection lawyers had sent a registered letter demanding this sum to him AT the homeless shelter. Like, they literally wrote a letter addressed care of a homeless shelter demanding 45 grand. Never forgot that, ever.)

    I didn't get anything about finding clients or starting my own firm, definitely an issue there (if I'd been interested in that.)

    ReplyDelete
  10. One other lesson from the above is that law students should not look down on those $10/hour jobs that populate craigs list. Those jobs will teach them more about the law than they could ever learn in the lectures, that they pay $1,300 per credit to attend.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Legal Careers in the UK
    Home
    About Us
    Contact Us

    How to become a lawyer
    Both legal career paths have strict requirements when it comes to qualifying, here is a step by step guide on how to become a lawyer in the UK.

    Step 1: Undergraduate degree

    The first step in becoming a lawyer is completing an undergraduate degree. As legal careers are competitive the reputation of the university you attend is exceptionally important, especially as the majority of barristers are Oxbridge graduates! Your degree classification is also an important factor when it comes to recruitment and you should aim to get at the least a 2.1 degree. Anything below this will make progression through the steps difficult and work against you.

    During the final year of your law degree you ill need to start applying for legal jobs, either a training contract or pupillage, if you secure one of these during your degree you will have a greater chance of having the next step, the postgraduate vocational course paid for!

    This degree does not have to be a law degree; those that choose to do a non-law degree will then have to complete an additional year of postgraduate study on the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before progressing onto step two.

    Step 2: Postgraduate Vocational Course

    The next step is a year long postgraduate course relating to the legal career you wish to study. If you want to be a solicitor you will need to complete a Legal Practice Course. If you wish to be a barrister you will need to complete a BPTC.

    These are intensive, expensive courses so you must be sure on your career path prior to starting this course.

    Step 3:

    This step also differs depending on the career you are aiming for. A solicitor will now need to complete a training contract and to qualify as a barrister you will need to complete a one year long pupillage.

    Step 4:

    You are now a qualified lawyer, if you were not offered a job with the chambers or firm you completed your pupillage or training contract you will now need to look for one elsewhere.

    Experience is important!
    Throughout your degree and postgraduate course you should look to complete as much work experience in related sectors as possible. You should be aware of what you have learnt from such experience and be able to discuss this in your application forms and interviews.

    For the solicitor career path you should be looking to complete at least one vacation scheme in the summer of the 2nd year of your degree. This is a two week work placement at a law firm. Not only is this useful experience it is your time to shine and make an impact on the firm so you have a better chance at gaining a training contract with the firm.

    Wannabe barristers need to complete mini pupillage, these are usually one week long at chambers across the country.

    If you take part in a range of placements and pupillage you will gain a variety of useful experience which will help you when it comes to interviews and applications. You will also have experience to help you make an informed career decision.


    Introduction
    Legal careers in the UK
    How to become a lawyer
    Things to consider

    COPYRIGHT (C) 2011 LAWBRITANNIA.CO.UK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PRIVACY.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "I didn't get anything about finding clients or starting my own firm, definitely an issue there (if I'd been interested in that.)"

    FYI starting your own firm is a piece of cake. Any lawyer who couldn't figure out how to do that should be immediately disbarred for incompetence. If you don't have the time, there are lawyers who will do all the paperwork for you for about $1,400.

    Finding clients is a different matter. There, you run into the supply and demand curve and easily the most challenging aspect of practicing law, whatever firm you practice with.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Please help me by reading my appeal on my profile

    ReplyDelete
  14. Re "there's no justification for forcing people to have seven years of post-secondary liberal education rather than four as a precondition to becoming licensed to practice law"

    I agree, but I would go farther. I say there is no justification for requiring lawyers to have any university degrees at all, EXCEPT for the fact that current American conditions of completing a secondary education (high school) are qualitatively equivalent to a sixth (or at most eighth) grade education of 100 years ago. And an American Bachelor Degree today - yes including an Ivy League one - requires LESS literacy than an eighth grade certificate of graduation from primary school in 1911.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What are your thoughts on "law" professors that get consistently terrible teaching evaluations year after year, shirk administrative responsibilities, and use their tenure-secured, tuition funded vacation from reality to write novels...that's right, novels about the Aztecs! Fiction! Not even related to the law! I had this person as a professor, and curse her name every month when i make my student loan payment.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yes, the law professor who made $140K a year, wrote about the Aztecs, and shirked administrative responsibilities is the reason you are $200K in debt.

    ReplyDelete
  17. 11:19, just that one professor and no one else? Wow she must have been horrifying. Link?

    ReplyDelete
  18. "What are your thoughts on "law" professors that get consistently terrible teaching evaluations year after year, shirk administrative responsibilities, and use their tenure-secured, tuition funded vacation from reality to write novels...that's right, novels about the Aztecs!"

    --------------

    I think I figured this one out. She is probably a latino woman who was handed the position primarily because of her aforementioned genetics. This is another problem with law school: affirmative action professors who abuse the privilege. I don't want to list stories because it would out my school, but I have them.

    ReplyDelete
  19. @12:00, give us at least one.

    ReplyDelete
  20. OK (12:00 here). How about a black (or half black, or dark skinned latino, I couldn't tell exactly) professor who spent a lot of time hanging out with and trying to sleep with students? To be fair, he's no longer at my former school. He's at a new tier 2 school. Not sure if his behavior was the reason for his move.

    ReplyDelete
  21. P.S., adding to my post, he was a Law and Philosophy professor. I kid you not.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "leaving aside those who are killing time because they have no real idea what they want to do" let's out the overwhelming majority of law students. Law school has been the terminal liberal arts degree since at least the 1960s, and probably since the 1860s. When did Oliver Wendell Holmes graduate?

    ReplyDelete
  23. To 12:00 PM

    I think you've got it! This is from a tenured law prof who should probably be a creative writing prof at a junior college. Moral of this story: these profs are laughing all the way to the bank...with our debt dollars!

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/174723.The_Queen_Jade

    ReplyDelete
  24. My school had many practical courses, ADR, Bankruptcy, [my state] Computer Legal Research, Trial Advocacy (as opposed to mostly useless Appellate Advocacy, which was required), Accounting for Lawyers, Family Law Practice (separate from the substantive family law course) and a course in Collaborative Divorce (a kind of ADR+). All these courses were offered as evening classes taught by adjuncts that actually were: A bankruptcy attorney in a medium-size firm, A retired family court judge, a mediator practicing the collaborative model etc. My only disappointment with the quality of instruction I received from adjuncts was in Bankruptcy where I asked the professor "why is a trustee sale of Entireties property not a taking under the 5th Amendment? He responded "Courts have said it isn't." (a career faculty member would have been able to satisfy my curiosity with a long-winded explanation.)

    We had an unusually high number of required courses, the most useful was Wills (there is also a separate Wills/Trusts drafting course). I think that all first year subjects with the possible exception of Civil Procedure could be combined into a single semester. I think that all courses after first year should ideally be taught by adjuncts on practical subjects. That being said, with the exception of being able to explain what a merger clause is to a client signing a fee agreement, and being able to recognize bad legal writing are probably the two most useful things I got from my legal education, on a practical rather than intellectual basis.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I propose an experiment - Let's keep it civil and substantive in the comments...Let's not give these mafia wife leeches (faculty) a reason to discredit and brush off this blog on account of incivility. They'd love nothing more than to be able to write the substance off.

    Let's be intelligent in our comments, so that the silence by faculty on the substance is so loud it hurts...

    ReplyDelete
  26. That was proposed earlier, and the idea was shot down.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I would propose the following:
    a) Year 1 would be essentially the same as it is now with the expectation that only 30% could go on to Year 2. Admission standards would be relaxed somewhat so the idiosyncratic students could be given a chance. In other words, go back to the 60’s. Those who do not make the cut would get a non-practicing Associates Degree;
    b) Year 2 would be a balance of theory and practice. Some “perspective” courses would be required and there would be a heavy clinical component. Satisfactory completion of Year 2 would result in the practicing LLB degree; and,
    c) Year 3 would be a voluntary program focusing on, for want of a better term, the “law and …” courses and some specialty courses such Tax, Patent Law, Immigration Law, Complex Litigation, etc. Satisfactory completion of Year 3 would result in the JD degree.

    I will refrain from comment on my proposal until I see some commentary from others.

    wdw

    ReplyDelete
  28. Why 30 percent, and what do you mean by "go back to the 60's"?

    ReplyDelete
  29. "Why 30 percent, and what do you mean by "go back to the 60's"?"

    I'm not the commenter above, but I believe he was thinking of the following: Historically many law schools failed out the bottom 25-30% (my alma mater does this to this day, and I think its a worthwhile policy) This practice started to change after WWII but didn't disppear among the "elite" schools until the 60's.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thanks for the answer. I didn't know that the traditional number was as high as 30 percent. I do not think this would not be a good policy for law schools across the board.

    ReplyDelete
  31. But, wait. This proposal is to allow only 30 precent to continue, not to fail out 30 percent.

    ReplyDelete
  32. It might be better to just cut out 50 law schools than fail out the bottom students. Focus on getting the right students in and retaining them rather than wasting a year of somebody's life, like the Med Schools do.

    ReplyDelete
  33. How do you "just cut out 50 law schools?"

    ReplyDelete
  34. "Let's not give these mafia wife leeches (faculty) a reason to discredit and brush off this blog on account of incivility."

    Why do you care one iota what they think? Didn't they control enough aspects of your life?

    ReplyDelete
  35. 3:00PM, Oh her. Have you heard the famous story about how in 2004(?), she reportedly poured a bottle of water all over herself in class because "it was hot?"

    ReplyDelete
  36. "It might be better to just cut out 50 law schools than fail out the bottom students."

    I agree. Failing students still leaves them with tuition debt.

    ***

    How do you "just cut out 50 law schools?"

    Good point too. Besides, cutting only 50 law schools will not be enough any way. Perhaps the ABA should force a decrease in enrollment by 50% or so. Spread the pain across the schools. (Yeah, that'll happen.)

    ReplyDelete
  37. There should be less barriers for entry into a career in law. The argument that the ABA should cut law schools is missing the point entirely. Law schools are an enormous waste of time and money (in terms if prepping students to become lawyers or taking the bar). We should not be making this cartel smaller but eliminate it altogether.

    Education should be available to anyone that can pass a series of tough exams over a period of time that reflect how attys really conduct business. This idea that attorneys need to be a protected economic class is ridiculous and we can all see where it has led.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm the person who advocates for cutting schools by 50%, but I agree with your solution too 6:33. Basically any solution that wipes out the student loan / tuition burden of law school is fine with me.

    ReplyDelete
  39. (Actually, I should have said "any solution that matches the student loan / tuition burden with the earning power of attorneys is fine with me.")

    ReplyDelete
  40. Leaving aside the question of how we determine, in a market that is rapidly transforming itself, what reflects "how attys really conduct business", if students had to take and pass a series of "tough exams" in order to sit for the bar, they would have to be prepared. The preparation would grow to be more intense than a typical bar review course which assumes that people have at least heard of the word "torts". The preparation would probably resemble what you have today in cities in the Northeast with prep for SATs. Tutors at the best outfits can charge as high as $700 an hour per session, and require at least two sessions a week. Parents can spend over 20K in the preparation. If you have just, say five students, an individual can make a decent salary. Of course, the only people who can do this have lots of money, and the poor and middle class are shut out. That's what would happen here unless loans were available. It's a policy choice whether we want to restrict numbers by enacting policies that would likely have a disproportionately negative impact upon the less well off.

    ReplyDelete
  41. 7:03, How about my solution is simply shutting down half of the schools so that the supply of law grads matches the supply of jobs? That wouldn't restrict entry by the poor and middle class. Besides, the poor and middle class are currently - in aggregate - probably being more hurt than helped by law school due to the debt load and lack of jobs for those without connections.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Again, how do we shut down half the law schools? Do you mean have the ABA remove the status of "accredited" from half the law schools?

    ReplyDelete
  43. @7:03 - you are making a lot of assumptions to fit your little tiny result out of many possible outcomes. And in any case your preposterous scenario is better than what we have now - law schools that don't prepare lawyers adequately at $35 thou a year that leads to a life of debt.

    Practical exams can include things like drafting a complaint, etc. The financial world has exams that haven't necessarily created the world you envision and the larger point is that we shouldn't create a world where 3 mostly wasted years at a distorted price level is a barrier to entry.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Closing law schools (i.e. revoking their ABA accreditation) will not have any impact on the working class student who really wants to go to law school. It would however, have a big impact on the middle class who have many career options in the first place. This is because of the need-based aid offered to many working class students. I and my fellow working class students at my school that I knew (my father managed a fast food restaurant, and I was the first in my family to graduate any sort of college) recieved a fair amount of need-based aid. This aid reduces the debt burden that is the major beef of the "scam" bloggers, many of whom come across as entitled.

    ReplyDelete
  45. What is preposterous about the notion that when you make a series of exams an entry way into the legal profession that a market will spring up for preparation for those exams? I did not say it was the only outcome, I said it was a probable outcome, and that outcome would end up putting people who do not have money at a disadvantage. It's a policy choice. Could other things happen? Sure. What are some of the other possible outcomes you envision under your system--and not just a pronouncement that it will be better than what we have. What does that world look like?

    Yes, there are tests in the financial world for entry. But those institutions have what Americans, at least, think is a natural deterrent to participation, i.e. math skills or, at least, a comfort level with numbers. Law, very famously, does not have that barrier, and is potentially attractive to many more people. The numbers (demand) will determine the market and how much people pay to be prepared for the entry into the profession. Is there to be a regime of regulation in the proposed system?

    ReplyDelete
  46. There are three problems being discussed or alluded to here:

    (1) Law schools don't prepare people to practice.
    (2) Law school is too expensive.
    (3) To expect to have a career in law, you need to be prepared to do things other than those that can be outsourced or done by a computer (e.g., most doc review, but also some drafting).

    Solutions to these offered thus far have not suggested an order of priorities. If you shoot for an apprentice system, you might alleviate (1) and (2) but probably not (3), since the types of things you'd learn as an apprentice (drafting a complaint, reviewing a privilege log) are also the most easily outsourced or automated.

    Herein lies an internal contradiction: we can say that law is not all that highfalutin' a career, and to require all these appellate-case-law-based, theoretical classes is a waste of time and money ((1) and (2)). But the types of law jobs that are likely to stay in the U.S. are those that require you to *actually* think like a lawyer, i.e., extrapolate from a series of knowns (precedent, custom, etc.) to an unknown scenario. And that, friends, is what the current model does *reasonably* well.

    The status quo is far from perfect. But you can't seriously, in one breath, condemn the ABA cartel and the cost of law school, and then complain about the *lack* of law jobs. If you lower the barrier to entry, lawyers will be worse off.

    What is your focus? Require more practical classes in law school so that people can actually practice when they graduate? End the federal loan subsidy? Abolish law school and let the market sort it out? Pick which of those 3 priorities you hold dearest and go from there. Hard to see a solution that remedies all three.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I keep seeing people (whom I suspect are law school administrators and professors) dodge this simple fact: The supply of law graduates exceeds the demand for law graduates by about 2:1 ratio. Good kids work hard in college, take LSAT, study hard in law school, graduate and pass the bar, but can't get a job practicing law because of a very basic economic concept called supply and demand. This is especially unfair and wrong because these kids paid a fortune to complete that legal education.

    If we can't shut down half the schools, and we can't eliminate that fortune in tuition, then how do we remedy the above problem?

    ReplyDelete
  48. People have offered possible approaches: reforms in the provision of student loans, making it harder to borrow to attend law school. Going back to the pre-2005 system in which private loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy. I referred earlier to an editorial in the NY Times in support of proposals by Senators Durbin, Franken, and Whitehouse and Congressmen Cohen, Conyers and others to make that possible. That would promote fairness to people who are suffering and would give lenders an incentive to be stricter in their requirements for giving loans in the future. Those are the people to contact and get involved with.

    I don't think asking who is the "we" who will be able to (or want to) shut down half the country's law schools is a "dodge". It is a completely legitimate question.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Law-grad could be a under-grad major, or a year post-grad. It is a scam. I get that. What I do not understand is people with an undergraduate degree and a law degree saying that they can't figure out how to practice law because they weren't taught the specific methods that are easily accessible online.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Out of curiosity, would moving to a civil code system solve any of these problems?

    ReplyDelete
  51. Well, I donno. I mean, I can read a book on acting, or a website and listen to someone talk about how to act, but until you hit the boards, you ain't gonna learn to act. Practicing interviewing even fake clients badly portrayed led to all kinds of practical questions that we wouldn't have even known to ask if we hadn't done the exercise. Surely more can be done in that area. Or maybe we just re-invented the clinic.

    ReplyDelete
  52. @8:19 you are creating a scenario where YOU think the obvious outcome is a market that out-prices most people to take these exams. Laughable. So why aren't the series exams you need to be a financial advisor/broker creating a market in the same way? Math skills?!?!? Yea, OK. Cuz you know, the ability to do math always skews the law of supply and demand. The same thing for a real estate license, right? Keep trying.

    Sure the rich and powerful will always have more resources at their disposal but that happens in every aspect of society and it sure as hell happens with legal education today....who do you think has more resources from childhood to get into HLS? Please.

    Schools can still attract law students (Im sure white-shoe firms still want the prestige of an HYS degree) but if somebody really wants to be a lawyer it won;t be necessary to in-debt yourself for life if these exams are created the right way (and prepping people for the law more efficiently then the current scenario). Its been made clear that law school is pretty much a waste of time and not necessary so why make it mandatory? Yes the devil is in the details but an argument that states the market will price people out if the ABA creates a series of practical tough exams is preposterous. You can argue yourself out of anything that way.

    ReplyDelete
  53. ...and a series of exams is only one prong in doing away with the current fiasco. Major student loan reform is the another.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Again,I never said that this was the only outcome. An earlier poster invited people who are interested in the subject to think through possible ways to approach the problem. I didn't say a series of exams would not work. I suggested that if history is a guide-- and I know it does not always have to determine things-- large numbers of people will still want to enter the profession, and their interest in getting ready for those exams will be met. What would that world look like, given the expectations that have been set for the past century? And I do think the kind of preparation people have (math skills) influences the choices they make about what they are willing and ready to study after high school.
    I think the basis of our disagreement comes in our differing assessments of what it takes to become a lawyer. I do not believe it is the same as getting a real estate license. The areas of life that lawyers potentially cover is far wider and, in many cases, more important, than what real estate brokers cover. As a result, our vision of what the preparation for these exams would have to be like is very different. You are right: if being a lawyer is just like being a real estate broker then exams would be enough. I just do not think it is. So, we have to agree to disagree on that point.

    Someone said earlier that we are mixing lots of different issues together. On one hand the complaint is that law schools fail at teaching people what they need to know to practice. Now the suggestion is that people just need to take a series of exams in order to practice. These are conflicting visions, which I guess we can expect in this type of forum.

    ReplyDelete
  55. "areas of life are far wider"

    ReplyDelete
  56. I'm glad people are talking about solutions to this problem, although I don't think any of them will ever be implemented. Nobody is powerful enough to do any of this and those who are don't want to act and we can't force them to.

    I think change will come when, but not before, applications drop. And I think that will happen eventually, but its a situation where things may have to get a lot worse before they get better. Imagine what happens if the economy does not rebound in the next 5 or 10 years and if the theories about permanent structural change to the legal industry are true. And if tuition continues to increase at the same rate it has been.

    Imagine how completely, ridiculously terrible the situation is going to become. Huge numbers of students, utterly unemployable, burried in absurd debt. Combine these results with a decade of scamblogging, and a decade of underemployed law school graduates struggling in the labor market, and I think you'll finally see the message trickling down to the masses that paying for law school is a mistake.

    And once applications start to dry up, all of the problems take care of themselves. Schools will be forced to close or lower their tuition, starting with the lowest ranked.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Anonymous at 4:25 and other points, here. There are any number of things to shoot for in the future. But I still think a concrete thing to work on now for people who are in trouble now is the Durbin/Cohen plan to go back to the pre-2005 situation when private student loans could be discharged in bankruptcy. The discussion has been about colleges, but the situation for many law graduates should be part of the conversation, too.

    ReplyDelete
  58. "But the types of law jobs that are likely to stay in the U.S. are those that require you to *actually* think like a lawyer, i.e., extrapolate from a series of knowns (precedent, custom, etc.) to an unknown scenario. And that, friends, is what the current model does *reasonably* well."

    Posted @ 8:50.

    As a practicing lawyer for 26 years, I have to disagree. "Thinking like a lawyer" is one of the memes propagated by the ABA and law school cartels to promote exclusivity and convince you that they are imparting something unique. "Thinking like a lawyer" is nothing more than thinking in a clear, rational and analytic way. It's no different than how a competent scientist, engineer, plumber or truck driver thinks.

    Undoubtedly, a lawyer uses this skill differently than these other professions but there's nothing magical about it. Certainly, nothing that requires enduring three years of the deliberate obscurantism of the Socratic case law method.

    ReplyDelete
  59. In the last analysis, law school seeks to make students adopt upper class mannerisms, beliefs and "values."

    I read "Mario Cuomo: A Biography" by Robert McElvaine, during a recent vacation. Cuomo attended law school in the mid 1950s. He attended St. John's Prep, St. John's College, and then attended law school at St. John's.

    On page 72, Cuomo reflected of his time in prep school:

    "They were all one generation ahead of us," he told me. "They spoke the language; they had a more sophisticated cultural background than I did - all of them. They had done things and been places that I knew nothing of. I was just out of it. I could compete with them - better - at everything they were doing in the classroom, or on the ball field. But the cultural difference - I just didn't understand it."

    In addition, he also graduated in a tie for first in his law class. Of course, none of the Wall St. firms hired him. According to this account, he did not even receive one corporate law firm interview. Once again, we see that one's race hinder one's chances at achieving middle or upper class entry - even when they show that they can beat the "best" at their game.

    He was born to Italian immigrants, and he went on to become one of the most articulate, inspirational, and honest elected officials of the last 50 years. Regardless of where one leans on the political spectrum, one should at least respect Cuomo's stands and demeanor. Yet, he felt out of place at a prep school. This speaks volumes. (At least, he used his skills to try to improve the situation for those not at the top.)

    ReplyDelete
  60. My first year law school curriculum taught me absolutely nothing about thinking like a lawyer; it taught me instead to think like a law school professor or, more parochially, to think like a first year law student. All law school teaches you to do is how to take a law school exam and, even then, it does a terrible, terrible job of it. Even my LRW class was a complete waste of time (although this was owed to a famously mercurial professor who essentially graded you based on how often you visited him in office hours).

    I learned tons more in my clinical experience (which, I will say, was significantly more intensive than the average clinical experience; we're talking BIGLAW-type hours for zero pay) than I could have possibly learned in class. Moreover, the reality is that law school teaches litigation, a venue of practice which the vast majority of lawyers do not experience. This is not to say that the standard first year contracts (or, to a less extent, property) curriculum is irrelevant to the practice of corporate law, but to pretend that appelate case law is even an appropriate vehicle for understanding law as practiced is simply mind-boggling to me.

    As to the Cuomo reference; I agree that this anecdote would have been applicalbe to the profession roughly thirty or forty years ago. However, I don't believe it is very apt to the current state of the profession. I attended a reasonably well-regarded Tier 2 law school that prides itself on the diversity of its student body, and it really doesn't change the fundamental dynamics of law school any to add very talented and competitive students of color to the mix. It's the same bottom line, albeit with a different hue.

    I just don't see ethnicity (per se) as being as great of a hindrance as it once was; maybe only so far as one's economic status is defined by one's class (still a relevant meteric, but much more attenuated than what I believe a lot of commentors on here have expressed).

    ReplyDelete
  61. (Continued from above)

    For example, while we may take umbrage with the white male professor whose academic output focuses on (let's say) legal transplant theory in the Former Soviet Union , I doubt we would do so by calling attention to either his race or his gender.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Mr. Frazer is right, both about "thinking like a lawyer" and the lead hand of the ABA. (Actually, it's not the ABA itself but its Section on accreditation, which is essentially independent of the ABA because federal law prohibits recognition of an accrediting body that is also a professional organization.) But he could have gone further. I suspect that, having been out as long as he says, he did not leave law school trained to be a lawyer and ready to do all the things for which he was then licensed. I certainly wasn't, and I've been practicing law for over 35 years.
    I've also been teaching law now for more than 15 years, and I know that in three years students can both be taught the law and be trained for law practice, but it requires a re-thinking of the process. The Langdellian (Socratic, if you will) method is not outdated, but it is vastly overused as a method for teaching substantive bodies of law. Clinical programs (not only outplacements and clinics, but especially simulation courses) offer a much better way to learn and lock down the law. Unfortunately, such programs tend to be electives and available only to a limited number of students. (The rise and increased focus on legal-writing programs has been the one positive across-the-board improvement in legal education for all law students.)
    The comment above that law schools can teach the law and graduates can find out online whatever they need to know to be lawyers was almost certainly not written by a lawyer of even modest experience.
    The wonderful irony for anyone wishing to become a lawyer is that, if they abandon their best-school-I can-get-into, USNews-ranking, tier-bullshit thinking and look around, they may find that the schools most focused on lawyer "training" as well as education are actually the cheaper, more accessible, friendlier places to learn.

    ReplyDelete
  63. @6:53AM

    "I just don't see ethnicity (per se) as being as great of a hindrance as it once was; maybe only so far as one's economic status is defined by one's class (still a relevant meteric, but much more attenuated than what I believe a lot of commentors on here have expressed)."

    As a recent grad I would agree as regards attenuation in the profession itself. But would you agree that class still plays a large role in who goes to law school in the first place?

    ReplyDelete
  64. "But would you agree that class still plays a large role in who goes to law school in the first place?"

    Only in the sense that if you have the right genetics, you get a 10 point imputed boost to your LSAT score, and a 0.5 impute boost to your GPA, gaining you admissions into schools for which you would otherwise not be qualified. And upon graduation, you can get an affirmative action position for a few years, and then go and become a law school professor - where those genetics are highly valued.

    ReplyDelete
  65. "Only in the sense that if you have the right genetics, you get a 10 point imputed boost to your LSAT score, and a 0.5 impute boost to your GPA, gaining you admissions into schools for which you would otherwise not be qualified. And upon graduation, you can get an affirmative action position for a few years, and then go and become a law school professor - where those genetics are highly valued."

    I was speaking of class, not class as a proxy for rance.

    ReplyDelete
  66. "Only in the sense that if you have the right genetics, you get a 10 point imputed boost to your LSAT score, and a 0.5 impute boost to your GPA, gaining you admissions into schools for which you would otherwise not be qualified. And upon graduation, you can get an affirmative action position for a few years, and then go and become a law school professor - where those genetics are highly valued."

    I was speaking of class, not class as a proxy for ethnic background.

    ReplyDelete
  67. I am sitting in Family Law right now. A less-jaded individual would sign up for Fam Law thinking it would be practical in some respect...perhaps even useful in real world practice. Knowing how to handle a divorce or adoption would be a great benefit to me next year when I start practice.

    Instead, my eyes are open. It is advanced Con Law being taught by a "Gender Studies" prof. We'll be studying issues that 0.0001% of practicing attorneys will face. The top grades will go to the classmates most willing to regurgitate the prof's ideas back to her during "class discussion".

    Thus is the uselessness of legal education.

    My time in law school has been an utter waste. It is a jobs program for the schools and a funding mechanism for the other useless departments at my particular university. Add another ten chairs to the 1L class, increase tuition to the max allowed under state law, and spread that funding out to the Advanced Babylonian Pottery department. I can't wait for this bubble to burst, because the fallout will be tremendously disruptive.

    ReplyDelete
  68. "It is advanced Con Law being taught by a "Gender Studies" prof."

    lol. What do you expect when your professor herself couldn't do the practical things you wanted to learn.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Regarding the loans/too much supply issue, it seems like getting the Fed gov't out is the best to cure both issues. If there were NO fed backed loans and they were dischargable, lenders would have to re realistic potential in a future law student. They can use grades and LSATs just like the schools do. No bank is going to give a 3.1 with a 152 a TTT laon for $150k -- that makes no sense. There is nothing in this porposal stopping a school from giving scholarship to the students who really qualify to be in law school. For thos of you who say, "but my grades/LSAT don't show my true potential brilliance as a lawyer!" OK, no on is saying you can't go to law school -- we're just saying the maerican people aren't going to pay for it. If you're so brilliant, and you don't have the money, you have to give either the school or the lender a reason to believe that enought to loan you a huge chunk of money. Will some underserving rich kids still get it? Sure, but that's life accross the board.

    Without loans handed out like candy, there will be less demand for law school slots, dozens of schools will close and less lawyers will be churned out without placement.

    One of the commentors siad something about people who "want" to go to law school. We'll that's nice ...I want a pony. Just because you want to be a lawyer doesn't mean you're going to (or should) be one. And we can see how well that attitude has been for our country across the educational specrtum of higher education -- very little intellectual curiousity in the average college kid.

    ReplyDelete
  70. It is advanced Con Law being taught by a "Gender Studies" prof. We'll be studying issues that 0.0001% of practicing attorneys will face. The top grades will go to the classmates most willing to regurgitate the prof's ideas back to her during "class discussion".

    Sounds brutal. I'm so glad that's behind me.

    ReplyDelete
  71. "It is advanced Con Law being taught by a "Gender Studies" prof. We'll be studying issues that 0.0001% of practicing attorneys will face. The top grades will go to the classmates most willing to regurgitate the prof's ideas back to her during "class discussion".

    Sounds brutal. I'm so glad that's behind me."

    No matter how bad it sounds, experiencing it is far worse than I could describe.

    "It is advanced Con Law being taught by a "Gender Studies" prof."

    lol. What do you expect when your professor herself couldn't do the practical things you wanted to learn."

    Maybe I'll get lucky and get to raise a substantive due process argument in a family law case. Perhaps when my brother in law gets divorced I can cite Lawrence v. Texas.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Douching and unique scented bathroom items can upset the pure
    stability of bacteria in the vagina and make yeast infections much more possible.
    Nylon underclothing may also cause an allergic reaction in some woman.
    Although the treatment has been successful for
    many people with Candida, be warned that some of the side
    effects may include excessive vaginal discharge, discomfort and burning in the vaginal area.



    Review my weblog yeast infection and bleeding between periods
    Also see my web page: how to cure a yeast infection at home test

    ReplyDelete
  73. This is usually considered a fun and effective learning method in
    general. Do not overlook this part of your learning. offers free online piano lessons.



    Check out my blog post :: piano chords and scales made easy

    ReplyDelete
  74. there are lots of family dog web pages which provide totally free information
    on several unique instruction troubles. In the event you employ strategies that may be employed in
    agreement together with your dog's normal urge and instincts, you'll be
    able to improve its character and provide restrictions that
    can maintain your dog satisfied. --LINK REMOVED dog training accessories

    ReplyDelete
  75. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find many
    of your post's to be just what I'm looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content for yourself?
    I wouldn't mind creating a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write with regards to here. Again, awesome blog!

    Here is my blog post ... 5th birthday party ideas

    ReplyDelete
  76. The oil of oregano, an effective herb is also a natural cure, with a
    high content of carvacol in it being very effective if taken internally every
    day. Include about three to 4 tablespoons of
    vinegar to a bathtub stuffed with a tiny sum of warm h2o and only bathe
    in it for fifteen to twenty minutes. Get the answers you're looking for.

    my website - Male Yeast Infection And Symptoms

    ReplyDelete
  77. This plan of yours is a plan of action, and that
    means you take action every single day. You are now familiar with the advanced
    search feature of Yahoo Answers, once you do a. Relate to them and
    they will always come back.

    Feel free to visit my weblog Internet Marketing Techniques
    Also see my website: Internet Marketing Tips

    ReplyDelete
  78. Depending on what type of business you have you should build
    a fan base that consists of your target audience.

    Buy facebook fans are actually referred to now as Facebook,
    but often are used interchangeably. This
    is the reason why most of organizations are now being into contact with social networking solution
    providers.

    Feel free to surf to my webpage :: http://www.community.a4vcustoms.com/index.php?do=/profile-51702/info/

    ReplyDelete
  79. It is through urine and feces that we purge
    our body of infection. Nylon underclothing may also cause an allergic reaction in some woman.

    Seek medical or professional help.

    Also visit my blog; yeast infection and bleeding in pregnancy

    ReplyDelete
  80. For those who have troubles swallowing due to
    the texture, tablets are available to make consumption easier.
    Drinking a lot of water, eating plain yogurt, and drinking unsweetened cranberry juice as part of her daily diet can help maintain a woman's natural p - H, if she is prone to yeast infections due to constant p - H imbalance. Finding the best vaginal yeast infection remedy that will work for you will end all the disturbing symptoms of the infection improving the quality of your life.

    Here is my web site; Yeast infection and antibiotics

    ReplyDelete
  81. The only hurdle to accessing this is of course human limitations and the fact that the brain does
    not function solely as a learning tool for the human being.

    At the end of each round read out the cumulative scores.
    8.

    My site :: clever pub quiz names
    my website :: pub quiz austin texas

    ReplyDelete
  82. This is because they have a high number of
    satisfied clients who have purchased likes and fans in bulk and are reaping the immense benefits.

    Buy facebook fans are actually referred to now as Facebook, but often are used interchangeably.

    This is the reason why most of organizations are
    now being into contact with social networking solution providers.


    Look at my web-site :: Increase Google Plus One Votes
    my website - increase Google Plus One Votes

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.