The Future of the Law School

I grew up in the 1980s when it seemed that everyone wanted to be a lawyer like the ones on LA Law. The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (up until 2007) was the era of Massive Law when the guarantee of a $100,000 to $160,000 salary was, it seemed, extended to any one graduating from a top 20 college and to numerous people today graduating from a leading 50 law college with excellent grades and clerkships.

Even in previously poor economies – 1990 to 1992, 1998-2000 – the law profession seemed to survive, if not thrive. Hundreds of thousands of smart (and even not-so-sensible) folks were encouraged to turn into lawyers by a combination of outrageous salaries – in 2007, Cravath, one particular of the top corporate law firms in the nation, supplied bonuses of practically $one hundred,000 for leading performing associates – federally subsidized student loans, the supposed security of a protected profession (with its bar exams), and putative prestige (see any John Grisham novel).

Of course, the truth of all that was often a tiny suspect. When a prime 20 law grad back in the day could count on to earn a six-figure salary, unless he chose to go into public interest law, quite a few graduates didn’t have the same luck. And when it is truly neat to feel of yourself as a high minded constitutional litigator, or a trial lawyer from a Grisham novel, the practical, day-to-day expertise of being a lawyer was always (and nonetheless is) grinding.

Moments of glory are few and far in between. Never get me wrong, I take pleasure in the practice of criminal law and love helping consumers. And as my father could possibly say, it really is superior than digging a ditch. But the day-to-day practice of law is not out of a film script. It entails assisting people today with a DWI, drug charge, or embezzlement or larceny. Only hardly ever are most lawyers involved in high profile murder trials involving film stars!

The demand for law school and the government subsidization of college led to the growth of the college industry, aided by publications like U.S. News with its ludicrous college rankings. Schools became economic profit centers of universities (like successful sports applications) and in quite a few circumstances were needed to kick back revenue to the central university administration to assistance underwrite the rest of the significantly less lucrative parts of the university.

The fees have been passed onto current graduates and, in the end, the legal customer in the kind of high legal charges, specifically in corporate law.

Who benefited? 1 of the beneficiaries was the law college faculty. The typical faculty member at a decent law school has subsequent to no sensible experience. The individual went to a top rated law school, practiced for a year or two, and then went out into the legal academy job industry at the age of 28 or 29 to get a faculty job. A handful of law professors maintain up their sensible capabilities by performing pro bono legal work, or by consulting on the side.

Most law professors know precious tiny about what it indicates to be a lawyer, and they’re essentially proud of this. That is due to the fact the rest of the university has always looked at law schools (and business schools) as essentially trade schools. Since law professors don’t want to assume they are engaged in a massive Vocational Technical school, they attempt to distance themselves from the practice of law.

Second, the actual curriculum related with law college has changed little from the 1930s, when it focused on 19th century widespread law concepts or ancient tort or property law ideas. These principles have really little to do with the fundamental way property, tort, or criminal law is practiced in contemporary America. Most of these laws are statutory, not prevalent law, anyway.

As if to excuse their woefully inadequate potential to train lawyers, law professors and law school deans enjoy to inform incoming students that they don’t teach you how to be a lawyer, they train you how to think like a lawyer by way of the Socratic Approach.

Of course “pondering like a lawyer” is a silly idea. All it definitely suggests is pondering carefully about an issue. Yes, it needs a small bit of discipline. But it is not challenging, and does not call for three years of school.

The Socratic Technique – the a single that was produced famous by John Houseman’s Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase – is also bunk. Most professors never do it well. And all it amounts to is asking pointed questions and hypotheticals about one thing that was just read, and will soon be forgotten.

The issue with the Law College – which has practically normally been ineffective at coaching lawyers – is that it has a built in constituency – the law professor – who is going to fight like heck to keep his or her privileged position.

Law school has been experiencing a boom in the past four years, as routinely occurs when the economy requires a dive. That’s mainly because rather than go out into an uncertain job market, a lot of young recent college grads (and even mid-career professionals) choose to go to college in the hopes of improving their employability. (What they are often doing is growing their debt load, with no reasonable hope of paying these loans back. Hence Law programs clamoring to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy!)

But as the legal market continues to endure, even in comparison to other components of the economy, potential students are going to take other paths, and turn to other types of careers, even if those careers are less financially rewarding, because the sheer quantity of money it takes to go to college for three years is as well significantly to consider paying.

In current conversations with fellow lawyers, I’ve heard about how even major law schools are getting difficulty putting their students. That puts the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which is a great law college, but not a excellent law school, in a really complicated position.

If the University of Virginia (a top rated 10 law school) has problems placing a single-third of its student class in major law firm positions, what does that imply for the UNC-CH which is not as prestigious and also which has the unfortunate scenario of getting in a state with only two moderate sized legal markets (Charlotte and Raleigh) and competing with other great law schools, which includes Duke (though Duke tends to send students out of state) and Wake Forest, as effectively as Campbell (which is an underrated college that trains its graduates improved than UNC) and North Carolina Central (which is the best value for a legal education in the state and trains some superb lawyers).

There are as well numerous UNC Chapel Hill grads in North Carolina government to ever let the law school disappear entirely, but its privileged position will start off to erode. As will the privileged position of a lot of law schools.

So what will happen to the Law School? First, the smarter school deans will give up the pretense that law school is not a trade college. They will embrace the thought that the entire curriculum need to be revamped to focus on the sensible capabilities vital to practice law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.