October 16, 2010
Great Prawfs discussion of "Revamping the 1L Curriculum"
Over at PrawfsBlawg, Lyrissa Lidsky has this interesting post on 1L curriculum reform that gets started this way:
How do law schools justify their curricula in a world where tuition keeps rising and employment rates for grads keep falling?
In response to this question, and at the nudging of our curriculum committee, several of my colleagues today began discussing what should be done to revamp the 1L curriculum. It was amazing to hear how much consensus there is about what skills too many students lack after the 1L year. They can't (or don't) read cases closely enough; they can't (or don't) read statutes closely enough; their writing skills are underdeveloped; their analytical skills are weak; they lack initiative and self-reliance.
There was far less consensus on how to solve the problem. Proposals included having a separate class to teach legal reasoning skills, adding skills components to traditional 1L classes, making sure 1L students have a small section experience, beefing up legal research and writing requirements, requiring 1L profs to use essay exams, banning laptops in class, and adding components to 1L classes designed to boost "emotional intelligence" or professionalism.
The post prompted a host of really terrific comments, including a complaint and a retort from a current law student and a current lawyer (which are only quoted in part below and merit a full read):
Student Complaint: I am not a professor so I (maybe) cannot offer the best method for revamping the 1L (or even subsequent) curriculum. I do know, however, that the current method is not working. Law school is too much of a game, too much of hide the ball, and too much of "you gotta do what I say because I control the gate".
I have raised my concerns and thoughts to many professors and suprisingly they all agree for the most part. I have to wonder, if they all agree with what a lowly law student thinks, why isnt someone doing something about it? I feel that I have been under-prepared by law school and am just biding my time until the bar exam.
Lawyer Retort: I have to disagree with Mr. Billy who is frustrated by the law school hide-the-ball approach. And no, I am not a professor -- I'm a practicing lawyer.
I often here about how law school "hides the ball." This is often portrayed negatively. The people who who feel this way don't get why the American legal education system is so much better than most others.
Here's the simple truth: The practice of law is all about finding a hidden ball. All the time.
There is no such thing as a case on point. There is no such thing as a simple argument. Each time you are thrown into a new case or legal matter you come in with no context, no grounding, and you have to learn to swim over again.