Law School Discussion

Highest Quality Law Instruction

Highest Quality Law Instruction
« on: February 01, 2010, 12:28:16 AM »
I read in a LS Admissions book/guide that UTexas and Chicago had "outstanding" teaching quality in the LS whereas Harvard and Yale was only labeled "Adequate-Good"

The book was done by a Harv. Law Dean.

Is the quality of the instruction better at these schools? Anyone know?


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Re: Highest Quality Law Instruction
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2010, 09:01:15 AM »
Kind of silly, IMO. There is no way to actually quantify the quality of teaching. There are profs that some students love and some students hate.

Re: Highest Quality Law Instruction
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2010, 04:50:10 AM »
Chicago is quite good.  Harvard is extremely good as well provided that you are careful about selecting classes with good professors.  There are some professors who are more interested in pontificating about their weird view of the world than teaching the material - probably true at all schools.  I've been happily surprised that nearly all the proffs have been very interested in teaching and quite competent.  I think Dean K made a big push in this regard. Be wary of looking at old reports as faculty makeup changes quite a lot in a fairly short amount of time.  I think a bigger factor that's oft overlooked is the quality of your fellow students.  Few teachers will teach at a high level when the students can't keep up so you are often bound by the abilities of the median student to some degree.  Also a huge amount of learning takes place by discussion with classmates etc.  I think your best learning experience will generally be at the school with the brightest students.  One other thing to consider is what you are interested in studying.  Some school have excellent faculty, workshops and seminars in various areas but not others. For example, I don't think Y has much of a Law and Econ faculty, but Harvard and Chicago have very strong Law and Econ faculties (and Stanford has at least one very good law and econ professor).

What was the name of the HLS dean?

Re: Highest Quality Law Instruction
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2010, 02:00:32 AM »
To follow Bike Pilot and nealric's comments, the quality of faculty is high at all, or nearly all, law schools.  Why?  The pool from which law profs have come over the past several decades is that of a Top 5 law school, a clerkship or perhaps a year or two at a national firm, and then on to teaching.  There are few Kingsfields about anymore.  And most who go into teaching go because they want to, so you're generally getting a happy professoriate.

I attended Texas and also, years later, Harvard.  An important aspect of both is that, as large law schools, there's pretty much a wide palette to choose from, at least in years 2-3.  A tiny law school might be considered to hold its students more captive, but the only ones I can think of have reputations as having, if anything, an even cozier, more student-friendly reputation. 

Bike Pilot's point about Law & Econ, environmental (or some other) specialization is fair, so if that's a concern and you're *far* on the opposite side (which might not be the best approach to get the most out of any law school), that might be a factor at the very few schools (Chicago, Yale, Vermont) for which one of these is a clear bent.

So, in sum, it's hard to think of a school that would be markedly better (or worse) on this score, and it's likely not the factor on which a decision of where to go should be made.



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Re: Highest Quality Law Instruction
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2010, 08:43:08 AM »
I just want to add or support the idea that "quality" is completely different depending on your goals.
The most distinguished professors at my school don't seem to succeed (or really make any effort) at preparing students for their careers. 

Consider making two lists:

1: List your professors from best to worst by their ability to teach you the course material.
2: List your professors from best to worst by their actual positive impact on your career as a lawyer.

I imagine my lists would be completely different.

In my opinion, Law Schools technically function as professional/vocational schools, but they behave as if their goal is to enlighten you about the history and impact of the law, rather than actually teach you how to practice.
So in that case, quality, or value of the time spent, is very low in law schools.


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Re: Highest Quality Law Instruction
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2010, 01:25:25 PM »
I am willing to bet that the quality of professors, in terms of being able to teach a class well, is basically interchangeable at HLS and UofC. At both schools, you can find profs who are amazing teachers and profs who are mediocre teachers (but may publish very well, etc).

I wouldn't choose a law school based on these sorts of studies.