Balkinization  

Monday, September 09, 2013

Three Years in Law School are Barely Enough!

Bruce Ackerman


               The debate over the two year law school has largely been conducted as a dollars-and-cents issue, emphasizing the economic burdens imposed – especially on the extraordinary burdens imposed on students coming from low and middle class backgrounds. These raise serious issues, but it is a mistake to detach them from a debate over the ultimate objectives of legal education in the twenty-first century.
                In my recent op-ed in the Washington Post, I suggest that a two-year curriculum will effectively require law schools to repudiate the past 75 years of mainline efforts to prepare American lawyers for a constructive engagement with the activist regulatory state. This is a tradition that  begins with the sociological jurisprudence of Frankfurter and Pound, as well as the legal realism of the (later) Llewellyn and Moore, continues  through the Legal Process tradition of Hart and Sachs, which then sets the stage for  the last generation’s efforts by Calabresi,  Dworkin, Michelman,  Posner and many others to rethink the foundations of legal analysis in the regulatory state. (For my own take on this intergenerational enterprise, see my Reconstructing American Law, or the shorter version published in the Yale Law Journal as Law in An Activist State.)
                To sustain this tradition in the twenty-first century, America’s law schools must train their students in the use and abuse of statistics, economics, and other social sciences or face increasing irrelevance in the formulation and implementation of public policy. The challenge is to integrate these technocratic skills into an historically informed, and philosophically sophisticated, understanding of the legal tradition. Otherwise, the profession will be pushed to the sidelines in an increasingly technocratic age.
                Such an education requires a full three years of study.  It is too easy to deflect this point by claiming that most lawyers will not require such training, since they will be engaged in more humdrum professional activities. First, consider that these skills will increasingly be required by city councilman and leaders of state and local agencies, not only lawyers engaged in high-powered practice in Washington or Wall Street.  Even more important, it is simply impossible to determine which law students will take on leadership roles in the next generation.  Many lawyers from “elite” law schools will turn out to be drones; many  from “second” or “third” tier places will turn out to be leaders.  A two year curriculum promises to lobomotize the profession by 2050.
                To be sure,  law schools are only gradually facing  up to the task of designing a three year curriculum adequate to the twenty-first century.  But the real challenge is to engage in serious curricular reform, not to make it impossible by eliminating the third year.

Comments:

Or, do away with useless dreck like Torts, Contracts, Evidence, Criminal Law, and Wills & Trusts, which makes up quite a bit of the 1L experience and focus on the core classes that would support the legal education you seem to be describing. I'm thinking Con Law I & II, Ad Law, Property, Corporations, and Criminal and Civil Procedure. Pad the schedule with some policy school classes (e.g., Statistics, Public Finance) and an Ethics credit, and you've got a full 1L experience. Then, use 2L to branch out a bit, whether that's the Full Environmental Monty like I took, or the more prosaic classes that are necessary for hanging a shingle and actually practicing the law.
 

Law should be a five year undergrad degree - two years of liberal arts and three of a law major. There is no reason to waste money on an unrelated bachelors degree as a prerequisite to law school.

Then one of the three years should be practical courses on how to practice law and try cases which can be taken at the law school and/or in an internship with a local public agency or private firm.

Maybe 1/3 of the theory classes I took in law school proved to be of any use at all. Both of my state supreme court and state attorney internships were invaluable.
 

SV:

Try to practice trial law without evidence or nearly any type of civil law without contracts or torts. These are core subjects. I used all three over the past week.
 

"To sustain this tradition in the twenty-first century, America’s law schools must train their students in the use and abuse of statistics, economics, and other social sciences or face increasing irrelevance in the formulation and implementation of public policy.

...

A two year curriculum promises to lobomotize the profession by 2050."

I guess the profession must already be lobotomized because law schools by and large don't teach these things right now.

That said, I agree that these subjects should be taught as part of four or five years of total post-secondary education. The notion that any and all undergraduate degrees are necessary and sufficient preparation for law school is facially absurd. Two years of specified courses would be much better than four years of completely random coursework.

Bring back the LLB.
 

Back in my day (1949-1954) in college/law school here in the Boston area, Harvard Law School required an undergraduate degree whereas the area's other five (5) law schools required only two (2) years of college. As I recall,it was the ABA and the legal profession that brought about the almost universal requirement of an undergraduate degree perhaps to avoid a glut of lawyers.

But consider "Big Law" with the top students from the top law schools providing extensive training for these hires in order to practice "Big Law." Of course "Big Law" clients subsidized this training as the new associates billed for the time they spent learning. It's a tad difficult doing this in "little law."

I take Prof. Ackerman's point to be that perhaps the "Big Law" training should take place in law schools because of the complexities of legal practice in the regulatory state. But "Big Law" may think it does a better job of training, even of top students, than the law schools.
 

Brad, a liberal arts education is valuable. An undergraduate education of two years of what I assume you would make pre-law courses would largely do away with a liberal arts education.

In addition, many people don't know, when they begin college, that they want to be lawyers. (I didn't decide until after I graduated from college.) A liberal arts education helps students determine where their interests lie.
 

I have a recurring nightmare that I am in a fourth year of law school, and I'm looking for courses to take that might be: (a) interesting; (b) useful; and (c) unlikely to damage my GPA. In my actual law school days, certain courses that I would have taken in that situation were offered in alternate years and would not have been available in my imaginary fourth year. Admiralty comes to mind, since I have had two admiralty cases in 30 years and am, therefore, the office admiralty expert.Since many of the courses I might have taken would have been unavailable in my nightmare 4-L year, I was quite perplexed.

 

Henry:

The current rules do not require a liberal arts education. If they did that would be a big step in the right direction.

You can apply to law school with a bachelors degree in Culinary Management from the Art Institute as far as the ABA is concerned.

A specified list of 60-75 credit hours -- centered on but not exclusively in the social sciences -- would guarantee more of a liberal arts education than the current rule does.

As for not knowing whether or not you wish to go to law school, I don't suggest that you *couldn't* have a bachelor's degree in any arbitrary subject. You can have a Phd if you'd like. The issue at hand is what the minimum requirements are to matriculate.
 

Henry:

Your first two years of undergrad work (which I would keep) are liberal arts. I am merely suggesting turning law into an undergraduate major as do the Germans.
 

The first year of Law School should be devoted to instruction in STEM and Econ--all those serious subjects that pre-laws avoid like the plague in order to keep up their GPAs. I had the unfortunate experience of trying to teach pre-laws and pre-meds some math and physics in "baby" classes.

In my own law-school class, only some 5 of 135 students had a clue about STEM. On SCOTUS, it's 8 clueless out of 9, with Breyer the only savvy one.
 

Ok, as a recent law school grad who is now close to $300,000 in debt (no small price to pay for the "historically informed, and philosophically sophisticated, understanding of the legal tradition" I was given at the University of Texas - I'd have preferred a house, I think) I am now working at a law firm as a corporate transactional attorney. You apparently will not be swayed to know that my assignments, which include forming LLC's, and answering client questions (such as can I do x without facing liability?)have been 100% divorced from anything I learned in law school so much so that I would have been equally equipped to perform these tasks without a legal education (studying for the bar, where I for the first time learned some substantive law, has been somewhat helpful, at least making my research more efficient by providing a starting jumpingoff point).

But you're certainly right, I might become a city councilman. And though it seems odd to force me into catastrophic debt (and to force up the price of legal services to the point where those in need have no chance) because I might forego my chosen field to become a city councilman, is it even right to think I would be better prepared than a non-lawyer for such a task? Well, no, (to anyone besides you) the point is obvious. Being a good politician requires mastery of the issues, a good moral compass, and an ability to negotiate and work the system --in law school I learned how to ... read cases and respond to obnoxious cold calling from yes, lazy and unaccountable teachers undoubtedly much like yourself. How bout this. For your next class of students, you give them some analytical test that you think measures the oh so vlauable skills you claim to be teaching -- then at the end of the year give them a similar test and put yourself to the test -- you'll fail just like your system and just like your essay.
 

Ok, as a recent law school grad who is now close to $300,000 in debt (no small price to pay for the "historically informed, and philosophically sophisticated, understanding of the legal tradition" I was given at the University of Texas - I'd have preferred a house, I think) I am now working at a law firm as a corporate transactional attorney. You apparently will not be swayed to know that my assignments, which include forming LLC's, and answering client questions (such as can I do x without facing liability?)have been 100% divorced from anything I learned in law school so much so that I would have been equally equipped to perform these tasks without a legal education (studying for the bar, where I for the first time learned some substantive law, has been somewhat helpful, at least making my research more efficient by providing a starting jumpingoff point).

But you're certainly right, I might become a city councilman. And though it seems odd to force me into catastrophic debt (and to force up the price of legal services to the point where those in need have no chance) because I might forego my chosen field to become a city councilman, is it even right to think I would be better prepared than a non-lawyer for such a task? Well, no, (to anyone besides you) the point is obvious. Being a good politician requires mastery of the issues, a good moral compass, and an ability to negotiate and work the system --in law school I learned how to ... read cases and respond to obnoxious cold calling from yes, lazy and unaccountable teachers undoubtedly much like yourself. How bout this. For your next class of students, you give them some analytical test that you think measures the oh so vlauable skills you claim to be teaching -- then at the end of the year give them a similar test and put yourself to the test -- you'll fail just like your system and just like your essay.
 

How about we make it a 2 year degree, AND get rid of the activist regulatory state? A win win proposal!
 

Alas, Brett is still hounded by the legal representation he received in an uncontested divorce. Brett refers to "the activist regulatory state." Of course a regulatory state has to be active to be effective. Perhaps Brett doesn't understand the functioning of the regulatory state. His uncontested divorce situation doesn't provide him much experience. In Brett's field - engineering, he says - consider undoing the regulatory state that actively protects the public from improper infrastructure design, construction and maintenance. No, Brett would send us back to antebellum days that he seems to prefer.
 

"To be sure, law schools are only gradually facing up to the task of designing a three year curriculum adequate to the twenty-first century."

Considering that you charge up to a quarter million $ for this education, perhaps you have a moral obligation to move faster.
 

Ackmerman is a great academic. He is a terrible op-ed writer: http://whatthehelliswater.com/2013/09/09/yale-law-professor-insists-that-law-school-must-be-three-years-long-sigh/

Lawyers not understanding their experts? Oh, Bruce, that's so precious.
 

If an attorney cannot adequately explain an issue to an expert, how can the attorney hope to do so to a jury.

If an expert cannot explain an opinion to an attorney totally versed in the issue, you cannot expect the expert to do so to a jury.

Outside of mock trial extracurricular work, law school offers almost no training in how to litigate a case from start to finish.
 

I can buy that lawyers could use that range of skills. But why should they pick them up at law school? Many of the relevant skills are taught by any number of cheaper programs. There are degrees available already in public administration and statistics.

There's room for joint degree programs of course, but that's not the same as saying three years of law school.
 

On our SALADISTA's last point (with which I have no quarrel), check out my comments at Brian's earlier post on a 2007 Essay by Prof. Maxeiner comparing the " ... 2007 and 1914 Carnegie Foundation Reports on Legal Education." Based on my reading of this Essay, the 2007 Report seems to support the title of Prof. Ackerman's post, as the 2007 Report pushes for law schools to do more based upon the model of medical school education. Prof. Maxeiner in his Essay is of the view that the medical model is not compatible with law school education, including inter alia because of the expense.
 

Older members of the profession like Professor Ackerman got along fine, despite the explosion of the regulatory state over the last 80 years, without this education he now wants to mandate for the younger generation. They were successful because law school was cheap and a lot of smart people saw it as a way to an upper-middle class life, so they chose to enter the profession rather than pursue other alternatives.

Law will fall behind when smart, talented kids do not want to go to law school because they don't think that going 300K into debt to make 40-60K a year (even if they might be the few who end up in a "leadership position" someday) is a good life choice. That's happening right now, as the many stories about disproportionate applicant drops among high-LSAT scorers demonstrate. The selection out of the profession is what will cause the decline in the prestige and power of lawyers in America.

Like the recent graduate above said, law schools don't teach enough to pass the bar, never mind be able to teach people how to be actual lawyers. I've seen no study, no piece of actual evidence aside from flowery rhetoric, that the current system has any pedagogical benefits for the student. Until defenders of the status quo address this underlying assumption, they are demonstrating critical thinking abilities that would earn them a failing grade on a first year Torts exam.
 

I'm an older member of the legal profession, graduating and passing the MA bar in 1954. Yes, tuition was cheaper. (Tuition for my third year was $400.) But it was not easy as there was no "Big Law" back then comparable to today. Boston's premiere law firms back then, Hale & Dorr and Ropes & Grey, each had around a dozen partners. And there was probably one associate for each 2 or 3 partners. Many of us had to start our practices, perhaps training with an older lawyer in exchange for office space and a few financial bones for providing research or trying cases that the older lawyer did not want to try. We thought there were too many lawyers back then and the numbers were increasing every year.

New laws were being enacted, particularly at the federal level, for which we received no teaching in law school. We had to adapt, either on our own or which the benefit of CLE programs. Fortunately, law school taught us how to use our skills to adapt to new situations. AT the state levels, there were many uniform acts that supplanted the common law and earlier statutory efforts at some uniformity among the states. (Think of the UCC that "consolidated" courses in Sales, Bills & Notes, etc.)

I don't know how much law school education has changed over the years, although I did serve on a graduate tax adjunct faculty in the 1970s/early 1980s. (Tax law was not that important back in 1954 and starting that year there were many, many, perhaps too many, lax laws enacted.) With all the new laws enacted after 1954, it might seem difficult to integrate them into the core courses taught at law schools.

The economic changes have been huge since 1954, as evidenced by my earning capacity over the years. Bring into this picture the evolving "Big Law" providing a brass ring for the top students from the top law schools. Also bring in the ever increasing law school tuitions and the need for student loan financing, not limited to the top law schools. Too many perhaps are vying for the brass ring of "Big Law." Those who make it get big starting salaries needed to payoff their large student loans. What about those who don't make it? Outside of "Big Law" earnings may not be enough to pay down student loans. And what about the public in need of competent and affordable legal services? "Big Law" caters to corporate deep pockets. So indeed we do have a serious problem, expeciall since the Bush/Cheney 2008 Great Recession and its impact on both the legal profession and legal education.

Changing law school from 3 years to 2 years may not resolve the urderlying problems and only serve as a band-aid.

As an older member of the legal profession looking back, I ended up doing fine. But it wasn't easy. When others would tell me of their vacations, I would ask: "What's a vacation?" Clients can be fickle, even in the Luddite years without the communicative technologies of today. (Frankly, I'm glad I never had a cell phone to be hounded by clients at their whim.)

Changes have to be made. Consider the Carnegie 2007 report referenced in an earlier comment. And don't forget the public and its need for competent and affordable legal services.
 

what about closing law schools for five years? No new grads for 5-7 years could cleanup some of the excess.
 

Darn it! Over at the Legal History Blog (a great blog) there is a post today on Russell G. Pearce and Pam Jenoff's "Nothing New Under The Sun: How the Legal Profession's Twenty-First Century Challenges Resemble Those Of The Turn Of The Twentieth Century." The article is 23 pages in length. A link is provided at LHB. I wasn't around at the turn of the 20th century so I'll have to learn after the Thursday Lunch today what those challenges were to reflect upon my law school days. These challenges may go beyond the high costs of legal education and financing it today.
 

All of which begs the question: how do lawyers keep on learning after they enter the world? Those who are motivated to learn need resources where they can get more than a cursory exposure to subjects. Maybe an online resource combining study materials and feedback from teachers and commenters studying the same subjects. Law schools may be able to organize this as an adjunct to online learning.
 

Both here and at Volokh, it's the law professors defending the current system and lawyers of all political persuasions attacking it. Interesting.
 

I do not understand those people who are really for the two-years-study... It is an absurd! Law is a most important study, it can't be studied in two years. It is a waste of money and time.
We will be glad to see you on our site essay grammar check
Education should be valuable as we want to have specialists.
 

The Pearce/Janoff article is a great read. It was written in 2012 and published in 2013 in Fordham Urb. L.J. so that it doesn't focus on the back and forth in the past year or here or at other blogs on 2 vs. 3-year law school. Part IV "Reforming Legal Education" on pages 496-498 covers in brief the many issues involved with such reform beyond costs and 2 vs. 3-years. The article also focuses on "public good," and the history of the business vs. profession issue of law. My career addressed the gatekeeper role of attorneys that has apparently diminished in more recent years. There is a lot more to the reform of legal education than costs and length of law school, especially serving the "public good."
 

Before this post goes into the archives, take a look at Anders Walker's "Bramble Bush Revisited: Karl Llewellyn, The Great Depression, And The First Law School Crisis, 1929-1939" for some history that may be relevant to the recent Great Recession and current day issues on law school reform. [A link to the article is available at Larry Solum's Legal Theory Blog.]

At page 25 reference is made to Llewellyn's 1936 call to make "the law a cultural study" adding courses in "Roman Law, Jurisprudence, and the still unfamiliar fields of Constitutional Law," and "Administrative Law." [Footnotes 197 and 198] Query: was Constitutional Law an unfamiliar field back in 1936? Administrative Law I can understand.

It is worth pointing out that Llewellyn stressed the importance of the legal profession and education to address the public good.
 

I agree on it.
 

3 year may be enough for a person to finish law especially if he has the capability to become a lawyer. Because there are really many things you need to master in order to become a lawyer and it really needs time to do it. They also need to be master in writing and this is one of the most common problem that they can have. It's good nowadays that there are many writing services that would help them our like for furious essay review click here that would help them up in writing.
 

Actually, the more this story ferments inside my head, it’s actually starting to make me angry. The arrogance of “you don’t need to know the how or why behind the law cheap seo services Pakitan, just do what your Imperial President tells you and be a good drone” is simply staggering. Why not just use machines for the job and quit the pretense that this is a country under the rule of law and admit it’s a fascist police state under the rule by law? It’ll be much easier without people who know the difference between the rule of law and the rule by seo using internet business Creativity.
 

Friends I want share with you some thing about lawyer education. The path to becoming a criminal lawyer starts with an undergraduate degree from a 4-year college or university. Though many schools offer a pre-law curriculum targeted towards future lawyers, there is not a specific bachelor's degree required for this field. A potential criminal lawyer may benefit from classes in government, history, economics, public speaking or sociology. Law school admissions are very selective, so applicants should try to complete a well-rounded undergraduate program with high grades. After earning a bachelor's degree, prospective criminal lawyers must apply to, and attend, a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) or their state bar authorities. Admission requirements typically include high Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores, undergraduate transcripts, work experience, letters of recommendation and a personal interview.
Law School
Once enrolled in a law school, students complete a 3-year program that combines core courses, specialized courses in criminal law and practical experience; many programs also include internships. Criminal law classes typically cover research and writing for criminal law, working with evidence, litigation strategies and ethics in criminal law. Most programs also require students to fulfill writing, general ethics and professionalism requirements as well. Upon completion, law school graduates receive a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and are eligible to take the state bar exam.
Continuing Education and Licensure
Lawyers are required to pass the bar exam before practicing law. Bar examinations are administered by individual state agencies and only license the individual within that state. The test is given nationwide twice a year. Students must typically pass a character evaluation and background test before being granted admission to the bar. Most states also require lawyers to meet continuing education requirements in order to stay up-to-date on developments in the legal fields and law changes. These courses may be taken through national and state bar associations, law schools or even on the Internet.

Criminal Defense attorney Tazewell County Virginia
 

1L experience and focus on the core classes that would support the legal education you seem to be describing. I'm thinking Con Law I & II, Ad Law, Property, Corporations, and Criminal and Civil Procedure. Pad the schedule with some policy school classes (e.g., Statistics, Public Finance) and an Ethics credit, and you've got a full 1L英雄联盟欧服代练  lol elo boost  Buy Fifa 15 Coins  Cheap lol boosting

 

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