Last week I gave you information about Professor Bill Henderson at Indiana University Law School and his comments on the value of LSAT scores and the downside to law firms in relying too heavily on them. Hope you found it interesting.
Even more important from my perspective are Professor Henderson’s thoughts on the future of law school education. He is a proponent of more practical course work in the curriculum and more team work and cooperative ventures among students in problem solving settings. Although he acknowledges the value of competition and his opinion that it brings out the best in students in some settings, he believes that the cut throat nature of law school needs less emphasis than it gets. Check out his thoughts in this radio interview on http://shillingmesoftly.blogspot.com/2011/01/sms-hall-of-famer-prof-william.html . .
This issue of the need for more “practicum” in law school curricula was addressed at a conference I attended at American University Washington College of Law last week. Professor Jim Moliterno of Washington & Lee Law School (http://law.wlu.edu/faculty/profiledetail.asp?id=298) and Dean Dana Morris of the University of Maryland Law School (http://www.law.umaryland.edu/faculty/profiles/faculty.html?facultynum=084) reported very innovative programs at their schools, including devoting the third year of law school to practicum at W & L Law. Professor Moliterno pointed out that medical schools adopted the practical approach to professional education years ago and that law schools should use that as a model. He pointed out that “medical schools have been preparing doctors and law schools have been preparing law professors—not lawyers.” That got my attention!
I long have been a fan of this approach, and I am so pleased to see these developments. I hope more schools follow the lead and put more emphasis on practical skills in their curricula. Graduating law students and the firms that hire them would benefit mutually from this approach as law graduates would have skills in drafting agreements, negotiation agreements, preparing motions, arguing motions, the business of law and assorted other disciplines that would make graduating law students think and act more like lawyers and actually feel more like lawyers. Feeling more like lawyers is important and not just a feel-good thing. It is disappointing for graduate lawyers to go to law firms and feel “light” on the fundamentals of practice. I know because I hear it from the young associates.
I am very happy to see these new developments, and I will be interested in finding out more about the programs at the University of Maryland Law when I am at the law school in March to participate on a panel devoted to issues of young women in the law. More on that later!
So, what do you think about this issue of theory versus practicum in law school education?