More Ways to Improve Law School Education

As explained in my last post, the debate on how to improve law school education—or whether it needs improving at all—is alive and well in the profession today.  That is a very good thing.  You should be aware of this debate, and you should be thinking about whether the participants in the debate know what they are talking about.  After all, those of you in law school or recently graduated are closer to these issues than anyone else.

So, here is more from the article in the New Republic.  These are the last three contributors to the debate and what they have to say:

  • Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate, goes out on a limb more than the others—at least from my perspective.  She sees the entire legal education as nineteenth century-like and catering to the students who will land the Big Law jobs—only a few from each class at most law schools. Although her observations about putting the clinical studies in the first, not the third, year of law school are interesting, I doubt that they are practical for anything except discouraging students, who are unprepared for those clinical tasks, from continuing with law school.  However, that may be Ms Lithwick’s motivation.  For me, it is painting with too broad a brush, and the anaylsis needs to be refined.  Having said that, I am very pleased to see a woman in this line-up;
  • David Lat, founder and managing editor of Above the Law, is singing off my songsheet.  He advocates requiring law school applicants to have a post-college gap year before entering law school.  His reasoning is that it forces college grads to experience the real world and to become more introspective and analytical about what they really want to do with their lives—instead of sucombing to the knee-jerk reaction of law school when they cannot think of anything more interesting.  My husband, also a lawyer, and I required this of both of our children, and they were ready for and serious about law school when they entered the hallowed halls; and
  • Mark Chandler, general counsel at Cisco, wants law school to include paid internships that also will include law school credit.  He understands the value of those internships for relating classroom to real world, and he believes that industry is ready, willing and able to provide those experiences.  Perhaps the best part of his proposal is that the interning students would not have to pay law school tuition for the period of time they are involved in the paid internships.  What a novel approach!  Instead of bleeding law students of every dime they have, law schools would waive tuition and let them earn while they are gaining experience at internships.  Hear, hear and amen….

So, now you have heard the proposals.  What do you think?  Let’s keep these ideas part of the dialogue so that we do not lapse into old ways and bad habits simply for want of trying.

We owe our chosen profession more than that.

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