July 12, 2012
"Yale launches Ph.D. in Law to train aspiring professors"
The title of this post is the headline of this new article in The National Law Journal reporting on the (innovative?) new approach to be tried by Yale Law School to train the next generation of law professors. Here are the basic details:
Interested in becoming a law professor? Yale Law School has a program for you.
The school plans what administrators said will be the first Ph.D. in Law. The program is designed for students holding a J.D. from a U.S. law school who want to teach law. Students will spend three years learning how to produce scholarly research and writing; will take teaching classes; and will teach courses themselves.
Yale already produces a disproportionately high percentage of law professors in the United States, given its relatively small size — about 10 percent claim a J.D. from the New Haven, Conn., institution.
But legal academia has become a tougher nut to crack in recent years, said Yale Law Dean Robert Post, particularly because law schools want professors with a deeper portfolio of academic writing and research. A few years of practice experience is no longer enough to get a foot in the door at many schools, and job candidates with Ph.D.s are in demand, he said....
Law graduates with an interest in teaching often pursue Ph.D.s in areas such as philosophy, political science, history or economics, but "it's a little hard to get them back into legal scholarship," Post said. Some law schools offer postgraduation fellowships that provide time to research and write, but they don't offer much instruction in producing academic research.
Yale's program will offer training in research and writing without losing students to other academic disciplines, Post said. The law school is still ironing out the details, but students will have to write a dissertation, sit for qualifying exams, take classes on teaching and teach two courses.
Yale received funding for the program from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and alumna Meridee Moore, who founded Watershed Asset Management LLC. Students won't have to pay tuition and will receive a cost-of living stipend, Post said. The program will start accepting applications this fall and will open during fall 2013. Post said he expects to accept about five students per year, eventually working up to a total enrollment of 15.
"I think this offers a very exciting combination of law school and graduate school," Post said. "We very much hope it will fill a need."
I share Dean Post's view that this new Yale Ph.D. program wll be an "exciting combination of law school and graduate school," and I think the program will fill a gap in existing law school programming. That said, I do not think it is quite right to suggest this program will fill a "need" as suggested by Dean Post: in my view, the law school universe right now does not really need more or even more thoroughly trained Ph.D. law professors.
Though I am disinclined to assert that there are already too many law professors, I am eager to assert that there are already too many law professors who have spent relatively too much time in school and relatively too little time in legal practice.
July 8, 2012
"ABA: Law schools getting the message on practical skills"
The title of this post is the headline of this new article from The National Law Journal. Here is how it starts:
The dismal job market for newly minted lawyers has influenced how most law school administrators approach their course offerings, with 76 percent of the institutions surveyed by the American Bar Association reporting that they've modified their curricula to adapt.
That's one key finding in the ABA's first empirical survey of law school curricula in a decade, which will be released on Aug. 4 during the organization's annual meeting in Chicago.
The influence the employment picture is having on law school classes is seen most obviously in the rise of so-called practical skills courses: clinics, simulations and externships. Law schools have increased their course offerings in each of those areas, according to the report.
The survey uses the findings of a previous ABA study of curricula that covered the years 1992 to 2002 as a baseline for comparison. "The survey responses reveal a renewed commitment by law schools to review and revise their curricula to produce practice-ready professionals," said Hulett "Bucky" Askew, the ABA's consultant on legal education. "The report illuminates the extent to which faculties and administrators have responded to the evolving needs of their students and to changes in the legal services industry."
Media scrutiny of law school curricula has also fueled some of the changes, said Southwestern Law School Professor Catherine Carpenter, chair of the ABA committee that produced the report. Additionally, more than half of the schools surveyed reported being influenced by two separate reports that called for more professionalism and real-world skills in law schools: The so-called Carnegie Report and Best Practices for Legal Education, both published in 2007.
"Wholesale curricular review has produced experimentation and change at all levels of the curriculum, resulting in new programs and courses, new and enhanced experiential learning, and greater emphasis on various kinds of writing across the curriculum," Carpenter said.
The vast majority of law schools — 87 percent — now offer at least one joint-degree program, with the J.D./MBA combination the most common. While law school curricula have become more skills oriented, other areas have remained largely static. The survey found that the average number of credits hours required for graduation increased to 89 units in 2010, up from 88 one decade ago. Roughly the same number of schools reported requiring specific courses after the first year as they did in 2002, and subject matter tested by bar examinations appeared to play no role in course requirements, according to the survey.