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Author Topic: It is called law school, not lawyer school  (Read 11005 times)

BoRNnTHeUSA

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It is called law school, not lawyer school
« on: January 14, 2008, 02:00:11 PM »
I have read many articles about proposed changes to the traditional law school curriculum.  Most state, law students are not prepared and suggest more practical real-time experience.  (I believe Drexel has a program that rotates between class and law offices.)  The article below wasn't written by a law student, just melodramatic law student hopeful. 

For those who are attending, what is your opinion about your experience thus far.  And for those who have finished and passed the bar, do you think your education has prepared you for practice, if not, what do you think should change? 


It is called law school, not lawyer school

By Evan Mintz | Thresher Editorial Staff

Last December, Stanford Law School held a gathering of deans from 10 law schools that are in the process of revamping their educational programs — one of many meetings springing up in attempts to revamp legal education. The apparent problem is that law school students do not graduate with the practical skills not necessary to be practicing lawyers. And as a second semester senior desperately — oh Jeebus desperately — applying to law school, I cannot help but stand athwart this plan, yelling “stop.”

Pardon me if I sound like that annoying guy at a cocktail party, but the last thing we need is more lawyers. Well, that is not entirely accurate. The last thing we need is law schools that view their charge as purely vocational. When people graduate from law school, they should not view themselves as merely lawyers, but people of law who understand the massive fabric that holds together our society.

Every single aspect of our lives, from the water we drink to the air we breathe to the coitus we make, is regulated to some degree by our laws. This is not just the result of some so-called nanny state gone amok. Rather, part of a civilized society is creating a system through which citizens can appeal any and every issue without having to resort to violence — though at times Antonin Scalia’s opinions are as subtle as a lead pipe to a skull.

Like it or not, we do not ride atop the social Leviathan, but live inside it, completely surrounded. And like a fish in water, people are barely aware of the ocean of legality in which we swim. Law school should teach people to navigate this ocean, not just as sailors who ride the currents to ferry clients, but as oceanographers who know the mystery of the depths, constantly striving to understand the why and how.

A successful Juris Doctor should turn an average citizen into a lawyerly Neo who can see the code of our societal matrix, understanding the true meaning of every obscure clause and, yes, being able to manipulate it as such.

Or, to use a metaphor I find much more appealing, law schools should be graduating judicial Jedi who can feel and use the law around us. After all, the law is my ally and a powerful ally it is. Society creates it, makes it grow. Its statutes surround us and bind us. Legal beings are we, not some sort of crude warriors. You must feel the law around you, everywhere.

Plus, wouldn’t it be awesome if gavels made lightsaber noises? But I digress.

However, people are offering an alternative. In The Chronicle of Higher Education Review, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus and university professor at George Washington University Law School, commented he believes that law schools should create a less rigorous master’s degree that he jokingly called ABB: All but bar. This path would be for people who want to learn about the law but not necessarily become practicing lawyers. I must admit this idea leaves me somewhat distressed.

Trachtenberg’s plan would essentially split law education between legal scientists and engineers, but with the differences all the more obvious. Learning law without any direct experience is like learning chemistry without a lab. Law students, especially those who do not just want a vocational experience, need to understand law in all its aspects, from its philosophical underpinnings to its most contemporary applications.

In the end, our lives are ones of laws and the unexamined life is not worth living. If law schools become more vocational, the job of lawyer will become a job not worth attaining. Of course, there is another reason people go to law school. Take a $120,000 paycheck for a first year lawyer at Vinson and Elkins, please.

Evan Mintz is a Hanszen College senior and executive editor.
"I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Freak

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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2008, 02:15:09 PM »
Law PhD's exist - sounds like he wants one of those, not a JD. IMHO, a masters degree would give nobody enough depth to understand the law like he envisions.
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I am Penny Lane

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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2008, 11:22:15 PM »
Tag to read later.
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Cloggie

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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2008, 01:34:37 PM »
Mr. mintz should look into an LLM and a JPS (I believe these are the right letters for a Law PhD).  That's where you're going to get the academic stuff that he wants that doesn't mean jack in the practice of law. 

I also think that being as he's still in college he has very little idea of what he's talking about.  You know how much political and sociological theories help me at my job or how much even my first employer cared about my coursework? NONE.  Unless you go into research or academia, the content of what you learned in college (particularly social science-related things) is of minimal use outside of it.

Papa Bear

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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2008, 01:56:26 PM »
The reality of law school is that it's not really all that academic. You learn a particular way of thinking, you learn how to nitpick a case and talk policy. Once you have these concepts down, which happens in the first semester, the rest of it is working long hours to sufficiently memorize a bunch of facts so you can squeeze them out onto the exam. Oh, and there's a little legal writing as garnish.

I say we stop deluding ourselves, acknowledge that this is really a vocational degree for smart, competitive people, and make the second/third years actually useful by enhancing "lawyering" offerings. I doubt it will happen quickly at many schools, though. Tenured professors generally don't have the credentials to teach a lawyering class. Lawyering classes tend to be popular, which results in lower attendance/registration for classes put on by tenured professors. Schools will thus wind up paying not only for the lawyering class but also the salary of the tenured professors who are doing less teaching because of the lawyering class.
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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2008, 02:04:36 PM »
True enough, lawyers wish they had vocational training, but the vast majority of schools teach more theory than the nuts & bolts. Seriously though, the nuts & bolts would only take one year.
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philibusters

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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2008, 07:16:43 PM »
What exactly are you guys referring to when you talk about nuts and bolts?  Nothing can ever substitute for real life experience.  I think a good starting point for law schools would be to teach more procedure within substantive law courses.  The tenure faculty could do that.  Lets face it, almost never, even if law schools emphasized practical skills would anything but a tiny percentage of students be able to hand complex cases straight out of law school. It would be nice though if law students could at least handle simple cases.
2008 graduate of William and Mary Law School

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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2008, 11:14:41 AM »
What exactly are you guys referring to when you talk about nuts and bolts?  Nothing can ever substitute for real life experience.  I think a good starting point for law schools would be to teach more procedure within substantive law courses.  The tenure faculty could do that.  Lets face it, almost never, even if law schools emphasized practical skills would anything but a tiny percentage of students be able to hand complex cases straight out of law school. It would be nice though if law students could at least handle simple cases.

Nuts & bolts = how to draft negotiation letters, complaints, motions to dismiss, amended complaints, interrogatories, answers to interrogatories, requests to produce, requests to admit, motions to strike, subpeonas, motions to compel, motions for sanctions, motions for summary judgment and responses to all these motions. Plus of course, motions in limine, jury instructions, motions for directed verdict, and appeals.

Additionally, draft contracts (a variety), wills, trusts, leases etc...

If international law interests you, then you need to do all the above internationally.

Plus, you need to know how to conduct, a client interview, a deposition and a trial.

I just listed these "nuts and bolts" off the top of my head from my first 6 months practicing.
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jd06

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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2008, 01:31:05 PM »
Law school simply teaches legal reasoning, and that's invaluable out here in practice.  You can give me a set of facts, some relevant code, and some case law, and I can probably make heads or tails of it.  Further, law school helps acclimate you to performing under pressure, which is handy when you're arguing in a courtroom full of colleagues with a gallery behind you. 

You could never learn all the "nuts and bolts" you need to in law school.  "The law" is far, far too vast.  And most professors (with the exception of your adjuncts) are so far removed from the reality of legal practice they wouldn't be of much help anyway.  Hell, you could spend three years learning all the ins and outs of criminal law, get out and get a job in civil litigation, and you'd find that all that "practical" learning has almost no application to what you've been hired to do.  See where I'm going?   

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Re: It is called law school, not lawyer school
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2008, 03:32:47 PM »
Law school simply teaches legal reasoning, and that's invaluable out here in practice.  You can give me a set of facts, some relevant code, and some case law, and I can probably make heads or tails of it.  Further, law school helps acclimate you to performing under pressure, which is handy when you're arguing in a courtroom full of colleagues with a gallery behind you. 

You could never learn all the "nuts and bolts" you need to in law school.  "The law" is far, far too vast.  And most professors (with the exception of your adjuncts) are so far removed from the reality of legal practice they wouldn't be of much help anyway.  Hell, you could spend three years learning all the ins and outs of criminal law, get out and get a job in civil litigation, and you'd find that all that "practical" learning has almost no application to what you've been hired to do.  See where I'm going?   

1. Trial Ad did - nothing else, but then I've never had exam anxiety
2. And that's a problem


Ls does give the tools necessary to understand law, but not to applying it.
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