Most schools of hair dressing, television repair and the like are free-standing, and not located in universities. The instructors are not called professors, and they do not receive either the pay or the prestige associated with being a professor. There are few, if any distributional requirements. Rather, instruction is devoted almost entirely to the skills necessary to find employment as a hair dresser, television repair person and the like.
One hundred years ago, law schools made a self-conscious decision to be a part of the universities. As detailed in a terrific paper presented at the 2013 meeting of the Law and Society Association by Richard Paschal and John Forren, “A Forgotten History: Constitutional Law in the Law Schools and in Political Science through Corwin,” law professors began to teach such subjects as constitutional law because they wanted to be part of the university and not be considered employees of a trade school (alas, I could not find the paper online). Persons teaching law wanted to be professors. They wanted the pay and prestige associated with being professors. Most important, they came to believe that a university rather than a trade school education was necessary for a well-trained lawyer, even if that entailed significant time teaching subjects and skills that might not immediately help the student find employment and writing articles that were not of immediate use for judges. Both lawyers and those who trained lawyers, the founders of modern legal education believed, needed to be aware of developments in the humanities and social sciences, and that such knowledge could be gained only if law schools were vital parts of universities.
One central question we might explore at this week’s annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools is whether the decision to locate legal education in a university is a mistake. Strong currents in both the bar, journalism, and even in the legal academy are calling for a dramatic revision of legal education, so that virtually all of the student’s time will be spent on activities that will help him or her find immediate employment, and legal scholarship, so that virtually everything a law professor writes will be of immediate help to some lawyer with a client or some judge trying to resolve a case. Those of us who teach such matters as constitutional law and legal history are increasingly seen as offering “fluff” courses that distract our students from learning about the real world of lawyering. This is not the place for a lengthy defense of a broad liberal education for lawyers. Those arguments were made at the turn of the twentieth century by those who wanted law schools to be vital parts of universities. Nevertheless, to the extent the bar, the public and members of the legal academy think legal education ought to be primarily be devoted to skills training, we might seriously reconsider our place in the university. Anyone for “The Academy of Hair Design and Drafting Wills.”