The Future of the Law School

I matured in the 1980s when it appeared that everyone wanted to be an attorney like the ones on LA Law. The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (up until 2007) was the period of Big Law when the promise of a $100,000 to $160,000 income was, it seemed, encompassed anybody graduating from a top 20 school and to many people finishing from a leading 50 law school with terrific grades and clerkships.

Even in previously bad economies – 1990 to 1992, 1998-2000 – the law occupation seemed to make it through, if not prosper. Hundreds of countless clever (and even not-so-smart) people were encouraged to become lawyers by a mix of outrageous wages – in 2007, Cravath, among the leading corporate law practice in the nation, used perks of nearly $100,000 for top carrying out partners – federally subsidized trainee loans, the expected security of a safeguarded occupation (with its bar tests), and putative status (see any John Grisham book).

Naturally, the reality of all that was always a little suspect. While a top 20 law graduate back then could expect to earn a six-figure income, unless he chose to enter into public interest law, many graduates didn’t have the very same luck. And while it’s really neat to think of yourself as a high minded constitutional litigator, or a trial lawyer from a Grisham novel, the useful, daily experience of being an attorney was always (and still is) grinding.

Moments of glory are rare. Don’t get me wrong, I take pleasure in the practice of criminal law and enjoy assisting customers. And as my father might state, it’s much better than digging a ditch. But the everyday practice of law is not from a movie script. It involves helping people with a DWI, drug charge, or embezzlement or larceny. Just seldom are most legal representatives associated with high profile murder trials including movie stars!

The demand for law school and the federal government subsidization of school caused the development of the school industry, aided by publications like U.S. News with its ridiculous school rankings. Schools ended up being monetary earnings centers of universities (like successful sports programs) and in a lot of cases were needed to kick back loan to the main university administration to assist underwrite the remainder of the less successful parts of the university.

The costs were passed onto recent graduates and, eventually, the legal customer in the form of high legal charges, specifically in corporate law.

Who benefited? Among the recipients was the law school faculty. The normal professor at a decent law school has next to no useful experience. The person went to a top law school, practiced for a year or more, then headed out into the legal academy task market at the age of 28 or 29 to obtain a faculty task. A couple of law professors maintain their practical skills by carrying out pro bono legal work, or by speaking with on the side.

Most law teachers know valuable little about exactly what it suggests to be a legal representative, and they’re actually happy with this. That’s because the remainder of the university has actually always looked at law schools (and organisation schools) as basically trade schools. Since law teachers do not want to believe they’re participated in a huge Vocational Technical school, they attempt to distance themselves from the practice of law.

Second, the actual curriculum related to law school has changed little bit from the 1930s, when it focused on 19th century common law principles or ancient tort or property law ideas. These principles have hardly any to do with the standard method residential or commercial property, tort, or criminal law is practiced in modern-day America. Most of these laws are statutory, not common law, anyhow.

As if to excuse their woefully insufficient ability to train lawyers, law teachers and law school deans love to tell inbound students that they do not teach you ways to be a lawyer, they train you ways to believe like an attorney through the Socratic Approach.

Of course “thinking like a lawyer” is a silly concept. All it truly implies is thinking thoroughly about a problem. Yes, it needs a little bit of discipline. However it is not difficult, and does not require 3 years of school.

The Socratic Method – the one that was made popular by John Houseman’s Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase – is also bunk. A lot of teachers don’t do it well. And all it totals up to is asking pointed concerns and hypotheticals about something that was simply read, and will quickly be forgotten.

The issue with the Law School – which has actually generally been inefficient at training lawyers – is that it has a built in constituency – the law professor – who is going to combat like heck to keep his/her privileged position.

Law school has been experiencing a boom in the past 4 years, as routinely happens when the economy takes a dive. That’s since instead of head out into an unsure task market, a great deal of young current college graduates (as well as mid-career professionals) choose to go to school in the hopes of improving their employability. (What they’re often doing is increasing their financial obligation load, with no reasonable hope of paying those loans back. Hence the shouting to make trainee loans dischargeable in personal bankruptcy!).

However as the legal market continues to suffer, even in contrast to other parts of the economy, potential students are going to take other paths, and rely on other type of professions, even if those professions are less economically rewarding, since the sheer quantity of money it requires to go to school for three years is too much to think about paying.

In current discussions with fellow lawyers, I have actually become aware of how even leading law schools are having trouble positioning their students. That puts the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which is an excellent law school, however not an excellent law school, in a really tough position.

If the University of Virginia (a top 10 law school) has problem placing one-third of its trainee class in top law office positions, exactly what does that mean for the UNC-CH which is not as prominent as well as which has the unfortunate situation of remaining in a state with only two moderate sized legal markets (top divorce lawyer Georgia) and competing with other good law schools, including Duke (although Duke has the tendency to send students from state) and Wake Forest, along with Campbell (which is an underrated school that trains its graduates much better than UNC) and North Carolina Central (which is the best worth for a legal education in the state and trains some exceptional legal representatives).

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply