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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)?

Anupam Chander

September 13, 2007 in Service -- legal profession | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2007

Should law schools move away from a semester system?

Among many interesting pieces in a focus on legal education in the latest issues of  The Complete Lawyer is this interview with Larry Kramer, Dean of the Stanford Law School.  And, among interesting tidbits in the interview is this discussion by Dean Kramer of a recent scheduling innovation at SLS:

Stanford is [moving to] a quarter rather than a semester system. The semester is a big, clunky unit and so it leaves students with only a limited number of course opportunities. By breaking the academic year into quarters, you increase the number of course opportunities by 50%.  The courses are a little shorter, of course, but that diminution is more than made up for by the increased opportunities. It allows students to go outside of the law school and study other disciplines without sacrificing the breadth of their legal education. It allows them to create a program for themselves that is broad or deep or a good mix of both.

I believe that at least one other top school does not follow the tradition semester format: the University of Chicago has its law school year divided into three trimesters.  Surely a few other schools also have some novel schedules (e.g., I still remember fondly a 4-week winter course at Harvard Law School), but my sense is that the vast majority of law school adhere to the tradition semester norm.

I would be very eager to hear from teachers (or students) with experiences in both types of systems as to whether Dean Kramer is on to something by moving Stanford Law School toward quarters.  Should the start of serious law school innovation begin with a move away from traditional semesters?

Posted by DAB

September 10, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 9, 2007

A focus on what law schools can do better

Thanks to this post at f/k/a, I see that the latest issue of the bi-monthly online magazine The Complete Lawyer puts a focus on "What Can Law Schools Do Better?"  Here is a list/links to the feature pieces:

This issue also appears to have a lot of other intriguing pieces on the topic of legal education, and I hope in future posts to spotlight what strikes me as some of the more innovative aspects of the contents.

September 9, 2007 in Recommended readings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack