May 17, 2012
Should law schools help "incubate" solo practicioners?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this article in the National Law Journal, which is headlined "The next solo incubator will be in San Diego." Here are excerpts:
Recent graduates of Thomas Jefferson School of Law who want to launch solo practices will soon have some extra support from their alma mater. The school is the latest to start a solo incubator — a post-graduation program intended to provide affordable office space and mentoring from law faculty and alumni to help graduates gain experience and learn how to run their own practices.
The City University of New York School of Law was the first to create such a program in 2007, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and Pace Law School have followed.
"We don't take part in their law offices, but we'll provide mentorship and support," said Thomas Jefferson professor Luz Herrera, who is spearheading the initiative. "We'll also have a listserve that will put them in contact with more experienced attorneys."
The school will start taking applications for the program in July, and expects to have between six and eight participants initially. They will spend between 12 and 18 months in the incubator. Assisting them will be MBA students at San Diego State University, who will research the solo practitioner market in the city to help identify unmet legal needs and suggest prices for their services, Herrera said....
Fred Rooney, who developed CUNY's solo incubator, traveled to San Diego to help Herrera and other Thomas Jefferson faculty to help develop to the program. He said he has been fielding requests from many law schools for information and ideas. "As more solo incubators are conceptualized by law schools, each one is going to be unique," Rooney said. "I think the Thomas Jefferson model is going to emphasize cross-border matters," given that San Diego's close proximity to the Mexican border.
Thomas Jefferson will start a solo practice concentration within its curriculum next fall to prepare students who want to go that route. The school has asked local bar associations and practicing attorneys to submit proposals for what that curriculum should cover, Herrera said. The preliminary plan calls for a series of practicing attorneys to lecture on topics ranging from how to market yourself to how to maintain good relationships with opposing counsel.
I have long feared that too much of the professional and professionalism training that I try to give to my students in both doctrinal and skills courses unduly reflect only the large-national-firm "BigLaw" realities I experienced in my years in practice. Thus, I very much like the idea of law school classes and related programming that is focused around a different model/structure for legal practice.
That said, I have always wonder how effective and successful a true "solo" practitioner can be over time without eventually getting significant help from other lawyers and/or professional staff. For that reason, I am not sure I like the idea of encouraging young lawyers to be thinking about a "solo" practice rather than a "small" practice. Put differently, before embarking on a sustained effort to "incubate" solo practioners, I think a law school might be best served by exploring what kinds of small firm structures appear to be most successful in their region -- as judged by the client market and in the view of lawyers working therein -- and then developing programming to help junior lawyers join or develop these kinds of small-firm structures. Such a program might not only serve the students, but also local small firms (which, I suspect, have little time/ability to recruit and train junior lawyers, even if/when they have the need for them as their legal business increases).
Posted by DAB
October 19, 2011
NY state judges considering loan repayment to students who aid poor
I am pleased and excited to see this interesting new report, headlined "Under Plan, Lawyers Who Counsel Poor Would Get Loan Help," in the New York Law Journal. Here are excerpts:
New attorneys who volunteer to represent low-income New Yorkers would receive state money to help them repay their student loans under a proposal being considered by court administrators.
The idea is being weighed by court administrators as they formulate the Judiciary's budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which is due by Dec. 1, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in an interview.
The plan was advanced by Justice Michael V. Coccoma, the chief administrative judge for courts outside of New York City, during a hearing this month by Judge Lippman and his task force on civil legal services into ways to improve funding for poor people facing foreclosure, eviction, the loss of health care and other civil matters.
The task force has estimated that, at best, only one in five poor New Yorkers in need of civil legal services receive representation. "I think we have to think out of the box to create ways to foster civil legal services," Judge Lippman said. A loan forgiveness program "is certainly worth taking a look at."
Justice Coccoma argued during an Oct. 3 hearing that the poor economy, the slack job market for law school graduates and the heavy debt load many law students take on could offer a ready pool of lawyers willing to represent indigent clients in civil matters as they work off portions of their loans.
"When I heard of an increasing number of recent law school graduates unable to find jobs, I asked myself, why could we not develop a funding stream, a steady funding stream, of programs which would provide an opportunity for these attorneys, who are eager to put their skills to work in public service programs to provide legal services to the poor?" Justice Coccoma testified. "Perhaps this task force could recommend that in exchange for a two- or three-year commitment to such a program, those lawyers would receive a reduction in their student loans."
He said the hands-on experience could be invaluable to new practitioners. "As a young attorney, you are meeting face to face with your client much sooner than if you are working with a larger firm," Justice Coccoma said. "Sitting in the office with a client face to face, then advocating for them in a court or with an agency, that is valuable experience. It is that person-to-person contact which I think is a valuable experience in a legal career."
Justice Coccoma said a state loan repayment program would be similar to those offered by the federal government to some 70,000 people through the federal AmeriCorps program, which provides tutoring, home improvements and other services to the poor.
New York state also operates projects in which medical school graduates earn reductions in their student loans by committing to practice in under-served areas. In the Doctors Across New York program, for instance, 41 doctors receive up to $150,000 in loan repayments for a five-year commitment to practice in those areas.
Lawrence Raful, dean of Touro Law Center on Long Island, said a loan repayment program for law students is a "terrific" idea. But he said it would have to be structured to provide new graduates with careful monitoring and mentoring.
"My concern is competency, mentoring, apprenticing, whatever you want to call it," Mr. Raful said. "I just don't know how you set it up. Doctors have the four years of medical school and four years of residency, so they are much more prepared to go out to western New York to provide exams and flu shots and the other basics. But how do you supervise these [civil legal services] people?"
Similarly, the chairman of the New York State Bar Association's Young Lawyer's Section, James R. Barnes of Burke & Casserly in Albany, agreed that there would have to be close oversight of participants. "Are they going to be completely on their own?" Mr. Barnes said in an interview. "I know that many young lawyers indicate a hesitancy at going out on their own practice. But if it is part of a larger practice you might find enough people who are willing to make that sort of commitment. I would assume the pay wouldn't be extensive, but you add it to the loan forgiveness and experience, I think you have a viable product."
Mr. Raful also questioned whether the Judiciary, if it promotes a loan repayment program, would get the plan through the Legislature. "I am not so sure, to be honest, that the public, and therefore the Legislature, is as enamored of legal services as they are with [providing adequate] health care in under-served areas," he said. "I am not sure about the mood of the Legislature, I am not sure they are going to throw money at this, as opposed to, say, the Tappan Zee Bridge."
Indeed, Justice Coccoma's idea was panned in an Oct. 11 editorial by the New York Post. "Once again, New York is on its uppers, and talk of new 'funding streams' for anything — let alone paying down young lawyers' student loans — is absurd and inappropriate," the paper said. It said the shortage of jobs of lawyers carries a message that "New York has enough lawyers already — and maybe too many."
As regular readers know, I think this kind of innovative program is exactly how both courts and law schools should be seeking helpful joint solutions to some of their current structural problems. This NYLJ article effectively highlights some of the pragmatic and political challenges for the proposal being considered, but I think both could and should be readily surmounted if there is enough will among the courts and judges, interested public policy groups, and the law-school-reformer-types engaged in the scam debates.
Some recent related posts:
- Imagining a "Lawyer Peace Corps" or "Lawyering for America" to do good while helping new law grads to better
- More, Cheaper Lawyers Needed (A comment on "law school scams")
- Identifying the disconnect at the center of the "law school scam"
- Given modern labor realities, should law schools admit fewer students? Fail more out?
Posted by DAB
September 01, 2011
Imagining a "Lawyer Peace Corps" or "Lawyering for America" to do good while helping new law grads to better
I continue to find thought-provoking the posts and comments over at Inside the Law School Scam, as well as some of the still active student scam-blogs. And, via these sources, I sense there is growing mainstream discussion of modern legal education costs/benefits within the legal profession, as evidenced by these recent pieces from the Chicago Lawyer and the Connecticut Law Tribune:
- "Recent grads question decision to go to law school"
- "The New JD: Just Debt? Job Disabled? Justifiably Depressed?"
As I keep read these blogs and keep hear stories of successful recent law students having no success finding jobs upon graduation, I keep thinking about the very large number of (mostly poor) persons with unmet legal needs in the United States. As the title of this post suggests, I cannot help but imagine the creation of some mass program for young lawyers to do good work — whether modeled on programs like the Peace Corps or Teach for America — as a means of helping unemployed recent law grads do better by doing good.
As a criminal law professor who specializes in sentencing issues, I am most attuned to the huge number of criminal defendants and ex-offenders — literally millions of Americans — who could benefit greatly from legal advice but who, for financial or others reasons, completely lack access to lawyers or are underserved by (overworked) appointed lawyers. And I know that lawyers surely could be helping (mostly poor) people struggling with many modern American social challenges — challenges ranging from foreclosure problems, to immigration issues, to family law matters, to health care coverage, to access to education and professional opportunities.
In other words, our society now has a glut of underemployed junior lawyers and a glut of underserved legal needs. The private legal marketplace — for many reasons, though mostly because the people with the most needs have the least money — seems unable to connect these potential service-providers and these legal needs. But a well-structured government program or public-policy-group initiative could and should be able to do much better in connecting the potential legal service-providers with all the persons need these services.
I can think of lots of different ways to potentially structure a "Lawyer Peace Corps" or a "Lawyering for America" program — e.g., new grads could have government debts slashed for being in the program a certain number of years, some law schools (or particular classes/clinics) could serve as formal feeders. But I can also think of a lot of potential objections/problems — e.g., might junior lawyers with limited training make some legal problems worse for those now without lawyers?
For now, I just wanted to throw the idea out and see if I can get any reactions (at least from my co-bloggers).
Posted by DAB
September 1, 2011 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors, Legal profession realities and developments, Service -- legal profession, Serving students, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack
August 25, 2011
"Clinical Professors' Professional Responsibility: Preparing Law Students to Embrace Pro Bono"
The title of this post is the title of this new piece by Professor Douglas Colbert, which is now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article begins by examining the current crisis in the U.S. legal system where approximately three out of four low- and middle-income litigants are denied access to counsel's representation when faced with the loss of essential rights -- a home, child custody, liberty and deportation -- and where most lawyers decline to fulfill their ethical responsibility of pro bono service to those who cannot afford private counsel. The article traces the evolving ethical standards of a lawyer's professional responsibility that today views every attorney as a public citizen having a special responsibility to the quality of justice.
The author suggests that law professors assume a critical role in law students' decision to embrace or reject its pro bono ethical obligation. The author focuses on clinical faculty and suggests that its leadership within the academy will be crucial to bridge colleagues' world of theory and doctrine, and to connect with practicing lawyers. He illustrates clinical faculty's unique opportunity to incorporate the Model Rules of Professional Conduct by referring to the law reform and individual representation work that his clinical students perform. The author concludes by declaring clinical education presents an ideal opportunity for teaching students to appreciate their professional responsibility to promote access to justice and to embrace pro bono service as an integral element of a lawyer's professional life.
The reality discussed in this piece that "three out of four low- and middle-income litigants lack access to counsel when faced with the loss of essential right" shines an important light on the reality(?) discussed in this recent post that law school are now apparently graduating far too many persons each year given the limited number of new legal jobs that develop each year. Though there may not be a large number of new legal jobs to sustain all the new lawyers coming into the market, there remains no shortage of serious (and mostly unmet) legal needs in US society. (I plan to say more on this topic soon, in part because it is this reality that draws me to the view that law students truly interest in practicing law should feel more "scammed" by "career services" departments than by the law school as a whole.)
Posted by DAB
August 18, 2011
"What if law schools opened their own law firms?"
The title of this post is the headline of this interesting article in The National Law Journal, which begins this way:
Law schools have been pummeled with criticism for not producing practice-ready attorneys, so two law professors have come up with a novel fix: Law schools should operate their own law firms.
The school-owned firms would provide a training ground for recent graduates, but would function much like a normal firm, Brooklyn Law School Professor Bradley Borden and University of Maryland School of Law Professor Robert Rhee wrote in an article entitled, "The Law School Firm." The piece will appear in a forthcoming issue of the South Carolina Law Review.
Borden and Rhee acknowledged that their idea constitutes a "radical" change from the existing law school model, but they contend that these firms would help recent graduates gain the skills they need to be successful at little expense — and possibly a profit — to law schools.
The firms would be entities distinct from the law schools, and would be professionally managed and generate revenue, although they would be operated as nonprofits. Senior attorneys would be hired to oversee the firms' practice areas, and recent law school graduates would spend fixed periods, perhaps three or six years, at the firm before moving on.
The concept is similar to that of judicial clerkships, Rhee said, in that freshly minted attorneys would spend a fixed amount of time at the firm and face no stigma when they leave. Being in an actual, functioning law firm would offer a far more immersive learning experience than students could find in the classroom or even in a law school clinic, he said.
The law review article referenced above is now available at this link via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Article introduces the concept of the law school firm. The concept calls for law schools to establish affiliated law firms. The affiliation would provide opportunities for students, faculty, and attorneys to collaborate and share resources to teach, research, write, serve clients, and influence the development of law and policy. Based loosely on the medical school model, the law school firm will help bridge the gap between law schools and the practice of law.
Posted by DAB
May 30, 2009
Taking an Oath to Serve the Greater Good
The New York Times has a fascinating story by Leslie Wayne identifying a possible new trend among business students--to take oaths to serve the greater good, especially during their careers to come.
Should law students take similar oaths? Lawyers, after all, were involved with Enron, Madoff, and, most infamously, torture.
Lawyers, of course, are already bound by professional ethics, and serve, among other things as, officers of the court. Yet, a promise to "serve the greater good" seems to state an ambition more directly perhaps than our lawyerly professional canons (though perhaps those better versed in these might enlighten me on this subject int he comments).
There is yet another issue: whether it is important that professionals see themselves as serving the "greater good." The famous Adam Smith passage saw a greater good arising out of the self-interested behavior of individuals. But perhaps even greater good might arise from more directly socially directed behavior, such as that arising out of a sense of professionalism.
Here's an excerpt from the NYT story:
When a new crop of future business leaders graduates from the Harvard Business School next week, many of them will be taking a new oath that says, in effect, greed is not good.
Nearly 20 percent of the graduating class have signed “The M.B.A. Oath,” a voluntary student-led pledge that the goal of a business manager is to “serve the greater good.” It promises that Harvard M.B.A.’s will act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.
What happened to making money?
That, of course, is still at the heart of the Harvard curriculum. But at Harvard and other top business schools, there has been an explosion of interest in ethics courses and in student activities — clubs, lectures, conferences — about personal and corporate responsibility and on how to view business as more than a money-making enterprise, but part of a large social community.
“We want to stand up and recite something out loud with our class,” said Teal Carlock, who is graduating from Harvard and has accepted a job at Genentech. “Fingers are now pointed at M.B.A.’s and we, as a class, have a real opportunity to come together and set a standard as business leaders.”
At Columbia Business School, all students must pledge to an honor code: “As a lifelong member of the Columbia Business School community, I adhere to the principles of truth, integrity, and respect. I will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” The code has been in place for about three years and came about after discussions between students and faculty.
In the post-Enron and post-Madoff era, the issue of ethics and corporate social responsibility has taken on greater urgency among students about to graduate.
November 23, 2008
What should we make of all the law profs involved in the Obama transition?
Professor Nan Hunter has this helpful post compiling information on all the law professors who are playing formal roles in the Obama transition. As of this writing, the post is headlined "Law professors in the Obama administration: 35 and counting."
To my knowledge, there has never been a formal head-count of how many law professors were involved in prior presidential transitions. Still, the number already involved in the Obama transition seems high, though I suppose not surprisingly high given that both the President-Elect and the Vice-President-Elect are law profs themselves.
Of course, as a personal friend and fan of many law profs (including some on this growing list assembled by Nan Hunter), I am inclined to say "the more, the merrier" when thinking about law profs in the new administration. But maybe others have different views.
Posted by DAB
February 10, 2008
If you build it (around SCOTUS), they will come
The latest issue of the ABA Journal has this interesting article discussing perhaps the most significant innovation in elite law schools in recent years: the development of Supreme Court litigation clinics. The entire article merits a close read by any and all wanna-be law school innovators, and I found these excerpts particularly interesting:
Since Stanford Law School launched the first such clinic in 2004, others have followed: Northwestern, Yale, the University of Texas and the University of Virginia began theirs in 2006; Harvard and New York University kicked off last fall.
The clinics function as miniature pro bono law firms, tackling cases concerning criminal and discrimination issues, as well as laws governing voting rights and maritime jurisdiction. Typically, their clients are petitioners lacking the resources to move up the appellate chain without the assistance of eager students, full-time faculty and dedicated outside practitioners willing to give their time.
But the clinics share something else. All have allied with well-known Supreme Court practitioners and their law firms. The advantage is mutual: Top-tier law schools gain a glamorous clinic to offer students and to appeal to applicants in an increasingly competitive market.
Faced also with a shrinking Supreme Court docket, firms are going all out to seek opportunities to appear before the justices. Meanwhile, law firms — facing their own competition for high-powered clients and the most talented grads — get a leg up on recruiting as well as an additional labor pool.... Not that the law firms realize a profit from the clinics; on the contrary, the students require a large commitment of nonbillable hours from the overseeing attorneys. With the focus on developing skills using real cases and with a strong emphasis on writing, students often have to rework documents numerous times before they are ready for submission....
Most of the clinics bring students to Washington at least once to hear oral arguments on Supreme Court cases with which they have assisted. Harvard goes a step further, offering students the opportunity to spend their winter term in Washington working with attorneys from O'Melveny & Myers.
And while few students will go on to seek careers as Supreme Court litigators, students and faculty alike agree that the experience offers invaluable training. “My biggest goal when I come out is to be prepared to handle appellate litigation — not to be surprised by the process,” says Richard Kirkendall, a 25-year-old student attending the clinic at Northwestern. “I think it’s a good opportunity to see the full litigation process.”
I have worked directly with a number of these clinics on a number of different projects, and I cannot overstate the value that elite law schools and elite law firms are adding to both the development of important legal ideas and the development of the profession.
That all said, I hope the SCOTUS clinic model can and will be expanded to focus on appellate litigation opportunities and needs outside the beltway. Every state has its own version of the Supreme Court (some even have two), and I think (only elite?) state law schools would be wise to seriously consider the development of state Supreme Court litigation clinics. Similarly, there are over a dozen federal courts of appeals that all could benefit from the time and energy that law schools and their professors and student could devote to their major cases (especially when these cases go en banc). I think lots of law school — especially those in or around the main location of a federal circuit court — would be wise to seriously consider the development of federal appellate circuit litigation clinics.
If any of this work is already on-going in school beyond those discussed in the ABA article, I would be grateful to hear reports from the field.
Posted by DAB
January 23, 2008
The virtues (and vices?) of law professors being friendly with courts
Over the last year or so, I have author or co-authored numerous amicus briefs filed in various federal courts. (Specifically, I have been involved with four Supreme Court amicus briefs and with amicus briefs filed in seven distinct lower federal courts. My latest friendly effort — concerning acquitted conduct sentencing enhancements delivered to the Sixth Circuit last week — can be found here.)
Because I am finding lots of professional rewards (and a few professional detriments) in this work, I thought I worthwhile to reflect publicly on a few virtues and vices I have discovered in being so friendly with courts lately.
Some professional virtues I have experienced from amicus work:
1. Rediscovering the critical importance of facts, building an effective record, and deadlines, all of which are worth emphasizing in the law school classroom (even though professors rarely do).
2. Having various opportunities to put my scholarly ideas into action, which is intellectually satisfying and helps me appreciate the opportunities and challenges for operationalizing scholarly ideas for judges.
3. Working more closely with many terrific practicing lawyers, which has an array of professional fringe benefits (some of which I can share with students and academic colleagues).
Some professional vices I have experienced from recent amicus work:
1. Rediscovering the critical importance of facts, building an effective record, and deadlines; litigating real cases is often harder (and more time-pressured) than making up hypos for class.
2. Having few opportunities to get formal recognition or credit for putting my scholarly ideas into action, which is frustrating because a lot of hard work cannot and will not be rewarded in my professional marketplace.
3. Working less closely, simply because I have less time, with my terrific students and colleagues.
Though I have a lot more to say, I will conclude here by saying that the net gains makes amici work an easy call for tenured academics: I think every tenured academic should try to be involved in some kind of amici work on a regular basis. Sadly, though, I fear the limited ability to recognize and fully credit this kind of service in a tenure file likely means that untenured faculty should be mindful of the potential opportunity costs of investing a lot of time in amici activities.
Posted by DAB
September 13, 2007
Is the Future President of the U.S. Sitting in Your Class?
Yet again, the race for President of the United States (and putative leader of the free world) is crowded with lawyers.
Consider the leading Democrats:
Hillary Clinton (Yale Law School)
Barack Obama (Harvard Law School)
John Edwards (UNC Law)
Joe Biden (Syracuse Law)
Chris Dodd (Louisville Law)
(Bill Richardson graduated from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, a particularly appropriate training ground for future statesmen and stateswomen, but that institution does not offer a J.D.)
and the Republicans:
Rudy Giuliani (NYU Law)
Fred Thompson (Vanderbilt Law)
Mitt Romney (Harvard Law (joint JD/MBA program))
Sam Brownback (Kansas Law)
Duncan Hunter (Thomas Jefferson Law)
The fact that the three leading candidates for President in both parties are all lawyers is quite astonishing.
Among recent Presidents, the following were lawyers: Richard Nixon (Duke Law), Gerald Ford (Yale Law), and Bill Clinton (Yale Law). I see that USA Today has noted this year's lawyer crop of candidates, and helpfully reported that
Twenty-five of 43 presidents have had law degrees, but the American Bar Association says the proportion has fallen from 76% through the 19th century to 39% in the 20th century. Some recent presidents have perpetuated negative views of lawyers: Richard Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal and Bill Clinton was impeached. But lawyer-presidents also have included Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.
As a Law Professor, I have long known that my students will hold positions of leadership in the community, the nation, and the world. This suggests that initiatives such as those at Ohio State (naming 3 students as Leadership Scholars) and Santa Clara teaching leadership to law students are especially important.
Any theories for why so many of these candidates have a J.D.? Should law proessors be concerned when our former students promise to "double Guantanamo" (as Romney, the Harvard-trained lawyer, promised to do)?
February 06, 2007
Should advocacy count as scholarship?
Law professors' involvement in individual cases, often at the appellate level, is nothing new. However, it seems that such involvement may be growing, as professors file more briefs and increasingly serve as amici in order to be put their position before a court.
Generally, I think this is a good thing. In our area of scholarship, federal sentencing, I have written briefs on behalf of Doug Berman and others as amici, and he has most recently done the writing while I serve among the amici. This allows us to take the ideas we have propounded as scholars though journal articles and put them before a decision-maker considering a discrete set of facts.
Certainly, if there is a problem with this trend, that problem cannot be that we are taking a position on policy issues-- academics, in their writings, are expected to take strong positions on policy issues, as that is a crucial role we serve in the larger society. However, it could be that we risk blurring the line between somewhat objective academic and practitioner/advocate when we put our ideas in the form of a brief rather than an article.
I would not suggest that within the realm of legal scholarship briefs can serve as substitutes for articles, essays, and books. However, can briefs be considered a form of scholarship, secondary to more traditional academic work? Or are they something less, even a frolic and detour which should be discouraged?
-- Mark Osler
December 12, 2006
Prominent profs affiliating with prominent firms
Who says established and renown law professors cannot be innovative? As detailed here at the WSJ Law Blog, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe has has continued a new innovate consulting trend by engineering a deal with Akin Gump. As the WSJ Blog notes:
Akin Gump's announcement continues the trend of firms cutting various arrangements with prominent law professors. Last year, Stanford's Kathleen Sullivan, a protege of Tribe, joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges's Silicon Valley office in an of counsel position. Earlier this year, UCLA's Eugene Volokh affiliated with Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw.
December 09, 2006
Innovating in sports
The WSJ Law Blog has this great post entitled "The Heisman Trophy, Archie Griffin & the Law," which provides a link to this great New York Times article about John William Heisman. The post spotlights that Coach Heisman earned an L.L.B. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1892 and thereafter became a football innovator largely responsible for the forward pass, the "hike" vocal signal, the audible, and even the scoreboard. Especially as I anticipate another Heisman Trophy for a Buckeye, this post got me to thinking about whether and when a "forward pass" type innovation might arrive at law schools.
Posted by DAB
November 29, 2006
Should law professors be required to practice?
Law professors are required to teach (a little) and expected to produce scholarship (a lot). The third part of the job description is "service," but this can mean just about anything or nothing. Committee work, CLE lectures, conferences can all count as service, and few schools demand or even expect "service" to include any real practice of law.
Reading Neal Katyal's terrifically interesting new Harvard Law Review comment about his work in the Hamdan case has me thinking about requiring law professors to do some practicing. Here are a few passages from Neal's piece that prompt these thoughts:
Perhaps fueled by an intense desire to move up in published law school rankings, many of the nation's leading law schools have ramped up course offerings and the number of faculty members devoted to legal theory while disparaging practitioners. Like any excluded group, practitioners have begun disparaging the theoreticians in return. We are witnessing one of the most significant developments in the history of American law: the majority of professors on many law faculties are now specializing in areas that are of no obvious relevance to their students' activities upon graduation....
The truth is that very few law schools today prepare students to be lawyers: this responsibility is shunted off to law firms, the judges for whom students clerk, prosecutors' offices, and others. The obvious exception is law clinics, which do offer crucial lessons in the art of good lawyering. But clinics, despite their many virtues, still do not reach most law students, and their connection to the theoretical law taught elsewhere in the school is often left murky.
The cost of this educational failure is massive, forcing employers to spend their limited resources on training new lawyers in the basics of their jobs.
Neal's article ultimately provides a partial defense to all the theory in law school, but it still spotlights the insights a law professor gains from working on a real case. Of course, Neal's amazing experiences with Hamdan, one of the most intriguing modern constitutional disputes, are not what all law professors would get from practicing in their field. But, speaking for myself, I have gotten so much from working with clients and writing amicus briefs recently, and my forays into practice have greatly enhanced my teaching and scholarship.
So why not demand (or at least expect) law professors to write a real brief or contract or will or legislative proposal every few years?
Posted by DAB
October 22, 2006
Why shouldn't all law schools regularly host real oral arguments?
As I was gearing up this new blog adventure, Dave Hoffman at Concurring Opinion reacted to hearing appellate arguments at Temple School of Law by suggesting here that states "stop building new appellate courtrooms, and have law schools (in effect) subsidize some of the costs of the court system in return for educational benefits." Howard Bashman of How Appealing, who happened to be one of the appellate lawyers involved in the arguments at Temple, followed up here by suggesting that one lesson law students in attendance should have drawn "is the extent to which appellate courts are forced to ration justice due to the crushing burden of an overwhelming caseload."
These two intriguing posts got me thinking that all law schools should regularly host real oral arguments — and, ideally, lots of different kinds of oral arguments involving different kinds of courts hearing different kinds of cases. A very enriching and useful aspect of my clerking experience was observing oral arguments and discovering the wide diversity of judicial and litigant styles. Now, as a law professor, I continue to learn a lot from reading SCOTUS oral argument transcripts and from watching/listening to on-line oral arguments in my field.
So, furthering Dave's idea, I would encourage law schools to actively recruit (local and distant) courts to conduct oral arguments within its walls. Law professors could actively develop innovative educational programming around these arguments — by having students read briefs before the argument and perhaps even script questions for the judges; by having students draft opinions based on what they saw and perhaps even write reviews of the lawyers' and judges' performances.
Does anyone know if any law schools host real oral arguments on a consistent basis? Does anyone see any real downsides to doing so?