Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I think I would be more sympathetic to this NY Times article on teaching law students more "lawyering" if I didn't suspect the authors and the critics of such strong ulterior motives. The article argues that law professors are unwilling to teach the "necessities" of law practice - attracting clients, plea bargaining, drafting contracts, etc.  Instead, law firms are supposed to teach their recruits these skills on the jobs.  In other words, law firms are being forced to pay their employees to do these things instead of farming it out on the US taxpayer, which is what they propose.  "The horror."  Look, I get it.  Lawyers should probably learn how to do these things.  But this whole article just reeks of contempt for the law school elite, selectively mocking law journal submissions like "Why Non-Existent People Do Not have Zero Well-Being but Rather No Well-Being", so its hard to take this criticism without a grain of salt.  There clearly is an agenda present. The simple matter is, these law firms don't want to pay their hirees to learn what they describe as basic skills.  But isn't the firm actually the best place to learn these things?  I think the point that is unspoken in this article is that law firms are just trying to reap the advantages of the "unpaid internship" here.  And the unpaid internship is one of the most unjust and inequality-perpetuating mechanism in the US capitalism system.  On its face, the argument that law schools should spend more time teaching practical skills seems reasonable.  But teaching higher principles and abstract theoretical critical analysis is definitely more important.  We need to teach law school students how to write and how to reason.  Filling out Form 37-8234c is not going to help these individuals acquire these skills.  Thankfully, we are finally beginning to see studies that measure the effectiveness of certain-collegiate level degrees.  Surprisingly, it's the "practical" majors that do the poorest job preparing their students for post-graduate work.  Instead, the classes that teach critical thinking skills do a much better job of preparing their students for "the real world".  It is important to keep this in mind before we go rewriting the law school curriculum.

1 comment:

  1. I wrote about this in a more general sense talking about the alleged skills mismatch and how the media scolds humanities majors for not getting engineering degrees and the like. It's like the corporations would rather whine and try to get the public/individual to bear the cost than put a little money and effort into training the workforce they need.