Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Sort of Training Should a Law School Provide?

Today's New York Times has a front-page piece about the lack of practical training that attorneys-to-be receive during their three years in law school.

David Segal's article, What They Don't Teach Law Students, is here.

Although Segal includes quotes from both critics and supporters of the current law school paradigm, the critics fire the strongest shots:
“The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors,” says Jeffrey W. Carr, the general counsel of FMC Technologies, a Houston company that makes oil drilling equipment. “They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.”
Some large firms are developing their own educational programs, which are designed to provide the hands-on skills and practical "how-to" that is not emphasized in law school. According to Segal, the programs are partly a response to client push-back against -- in the clients' view -- subsidizing the training of young attorneys.  

Segal also cites to the growing presence of clinical programs in law schools, but he says that schools are reluctant to emphasize clinical education too much for fear it could hurt their academic reputation.

Helpfully, Segal provides the historical context for law schools' decision to focus on theory rather than the practice. Harvard's Christopher Langdell, credited with developing the case method in the 1870's, was a pivotal figure.