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July 26, 2007

Searching for Leaders in the Legal Academy

When I was a law firm librarian, I found a commonality of purpose that is not but should be self-evident in the legal academy. That purpose was to represent the client to the best of the firm's ability and to do whatever was necessary to achieve that result. It's priority was higher than doling out partner compensation, allocating offices, getting the best secretary, having the fastest computer or the largest computer monitor, worrying about how the person in the next office obtained colored paper clips, etc. There was a vested interest in honesty to the common cause.

In the legal academy, not necessarily so. The academic law library is usually the one place that has a continuing mandate to strive to meet the penultimate objective of law schools within its mission statement by providing resources and services to students, faculty, alum, and the general public to the best of the law library's ability. Perhaps that's why only two law school officers are identified by title in accreditation standards: the dean and the law library director. One would hope law school deans also share this vision but that is not a given. One would hope faculty members also hold fast to the commitment to the make the necessary sacrifices for this shared vision to be achieved, but that too is not a given.

So I ask you, if you know of a law school administrator or faculty member whose actions demonstrate a belief that law schools have a common purpose that transcends the pettiness of academic politics, share that with the readers of this blog by commenting to this post.

What are we looking for? Examples of rational, honest behavior that makes a difference without causing "trouble." We're looking for those people in the legal academy whose thoughts and actions are inclusively logical because they work, appropriate to the situation, and morally true to the facts. Do they (still) exist?

Why is this so important? The buzz in the literature about law education these last several months is the need for change. But can innovation come about without leaders who possess the characteristics I have identified? -- Joe Hodnicki

July 26, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

Old School, New School

In Re-engineering the J.D. (ABA Journal), Jill Schachner Chanen reports on the struggles the legal academy is having creating a relevant law school curriculum. What is a law school? A trade school, a professional school, a graduate school...

From the article:

[M]any law schools are continuing to struggle with what type of change is most meaningful for their own unique mission, says Ohio State University law professor Douglas A. Berman. Berman writes about curricular reform and related issues for law schools, their faculties and administrators on his blog, Law School Innovation.

"Law schools historically have been trade schools, where students learn the trade of becoming a lawyer," Berman says. "Justifiably, over time, that became more of a negative image and then law schools became more of a professional school. That may have been more of a perfect balance—not just trying to teach you the nuts and bolts of the trade but also teaching you to appreciate the pros and cons of the profession. Now we are viewing law school more as a graduate school, trying to give students more of an advanced and sophisticated appreciation of law’s function in society."

Berman believes this move away from the realities of practice is misguided. He says the better approach is a combination of trade school, graduate school and professional school with "a few tweaks."

He is joined in his thinking by the newest generation of deans, most of whom now come into the academy with some experience practicing law.

-- Joe Hodnicki

July 25, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack