Thursday, March 13, 2008

This can't be right -- law school teaching you how to be a lawyer?

There's an old saying about law school that goes something like this: the first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death.

With all due respect to my professors, I found the third year utterly useless. I had classmates that did not attend one class the entire 3L year, and they did just fine. We were all worried about getting jobs in an awful economy.

Now the Law Blog tells us that Washington & Lee Law School is replacing its entire 3L curriculum with practical things such as time-tracking, client interaction...things you actually do as a lawyer! How refreshing. I've advocated for some years reforming legal education to including something similar to articling, as they do in Canada. The broad based training these people receive for their first year out of school is, in my view, a very good idea. I think it creates a more well-rounded attorney. Of course, I am speaking as a former litigator, so I have a little of that.

A few random thoughts on this reform:

1. I think I would make it optional, at least at first. The whole throw the baby out with the bathwater approach may be too innovative.

2. What will the accreditation people at the ABA say about this?

3. What will employers and prospective law students say? There's something to be said about voting with one's feet.

4. I'd be interested in seeing how realistic the training will be. If it is garbage in, garbage out ten it is no better than the typical 3L year.

5. What will the faculty reaction be? Is this a way of cutting faculty cost by replacing some with lower-cost adjuncts?


BawldGuy Talking said...

David -- I swear this is a true story.

When my dad retired to the golf course, he became bored. He decided it would be challenging to become a real estate attorney, so he enrolled in the local law school -- I believe it was Western something.

The first semester he figured out text books were completely unnecessary. He returned them for a refund and bought the 'summary' booklets for his entire law school career.

He did just enough to maintain a 2.0 GPA then took and passed the California Bar exam his first time out.

He then went down to the local watering hole popular with the young turks with whom he'd shared classroom time for over three years. They weren't so cocky any longer, as they saw the look on his face.

He ordered a round for the bar, then asked, "Hey, what do you call a 'C' student who passes the Bar his first try?"

"An attorney!"

One of my all time favorite stories about Dad, and I swear on Grandma's sainted memory it's true.