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Author Topic: Thoughts about the purpose of the Bar Exam and a legal education.  (Read 471 times)

Esq

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I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with this guy, but I thought he made some interesting points about the modern legal educational system.



http://www.blogdenovo.org/archives/001042.html

LaneSwerver

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Re: Thoughts about the purpose of the Bar Exam and a legal education.
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2005, 10:54:16 PM »
Tradition.

It'll never change because that's how it's always been done.

By the way, where have you been? I haven't seen you touting Texas schools lately...

Esq

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Re: Thoughts about the purpose of the Bar Exam and a legal education.
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2005, 11:44:38 PM »
I've been checking in from time to time, but now that everyone's pretty much decided where they are going to go, I haven't found as many of the topics posted as interesting as they once were.  When the new crop of undecided posters comes through, maybe that will change.

I apologize for the length of the rest of this rather long post.

You raise a good point about tradition. As I read that guy's blog above, I thought about how the legal profession really frowns upon specialization. The whole thrust in law school is to make you a generalist. The idea--some may say, the myth--is that after you graduate law school, you should "think like a lawyer." Therefore, you should be able to pick up any legal subject, and with some study, be able to competently practice that area of the law.  The reality, of course, is that clients have to pay for every minute you're working on their case, and they are not too keen on paying for you to learn how do something you've never done before. Let's face it, that can take a long time, and time is money. From the client's perspective, I'm sure they are thinking "didn't you learn how to do that in law school?"

Many times I have seen law school graduates shake their heads and say how they wished their law school actually taught them HOW to do something. You might have had it beaten into your head that after the time for a Defendant to file an answer to your lawsuit has come and gone, and if no answer has been filed, you can move for a default judgment.  But how do you do that--
move for a default judgment? What does a default judgment look like? How do you "prove up" the damages? Most lawschools don't teach you that.

More than a century ago, when Harvard lawschool set up the core classes and the Socratic method and created the casebooks, the legal educational system moved away from the older methods of teaching the law.  The older way involved serving as an apprentice for an attorney. Harvard wanted the law degree to be more than just a "vocational" degree. The study of the law had to be "scientific" and "professional."  Most law professors at other schools were scandalized to learn that Harvard was using instructors that had never practiced law a day in their lives to "teach" Contracts and Torts through the Socratic Method. But Harvard's method of instruction has lasted more than 100 years now.  Most law schools still follow that model. You are taught to be a generalist in the law.   

Now, with the rest of the modern educational system, the whole trend is toward specialization.  Academics all tend to want to specialize in a subject and be known as the authority on THEIR area. Today, we see law professors want to make names for themselves, but it's hard when the great casebooks on Torts and Contracts have already been written. The tendency, then, is to find another less studied area of the law and dig into it. But then, what about the students who face the problem of the bar exam? The bar exam does not test on the esoteric, or "special" subjects. It tests on the basics. It's a minimum competency exam. I agree with the Sardonic Lawyer that after graduating from an ABA accredited law school, shouldn't that feat alone be evidence of minimum competency?  But the reason we have bar exams is because law schools don't teach you to be minimally competent in the practice of law. 

In this regard, the modern legal education really is at cross-purposes with itself.  The "sardonic lawyer" comes down on the side of supporting having a bar exam because of what he perceives to be a failing in modern legal instruction.  Because the institution has failed, the student is left in the position of having to pray that he passes.