The Future of the Law College

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I grew up in the 1980s when it seemed that every person wanted to be a lawyer like the ones on LA Law. The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (up till 2007) was the era of Huge Law when the guarantee of a $100,000 to $160,000 salary was, it seemed, extended to anybody graduating from a top rated 20 college and to numerous people today graduating from a top rated 50 law college with good grades and clerkships.

Even in previously poor economies – 1990 to 1992, 1998-2000 – the law profession seemed to survive, if not thrive. Hundreds of thousands of intelligent (and even not-so-clever) people have been encouraged to turn into lawyers by a mixture of outrageous salaries – in 2007, Cravath, 1 of the top rated corporate law firms in the country, presented bonuses of nearly $100,000 for prime performing associates – federally subsidized student loans, the supposed security of a protected profession (with its bar exams), and putative prestige (see any John Grisham novel).

Of course, the truth of all that was constantly a little suspect. Even though a best 20 law grad back in the day could anticipate to earn a six-figure salary, unless he chose to go into public interest law, many graduates did not have the very same luck. And although it really is seriously neat to think of your self as a higher minded constitutional litigator, or a trial lawyer from a Grisham novel, the practical, day-to-day practical experience of being a lawyer was always (and still is) grinding.

Moments of glory are few and far involving. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the practice of criminal law and enjoy assisting clientele. And as my father might say, it’s improved than digging a ditch. But the day-to-day practice of law is not out of a movie script. It includes assisting men and women with a DWI, drug charge, or embezzlement or larceny. Only hardly ever are most lawyers involved in higher profile murder trials involving film stars!

The demand for law college and the government subsidization of school led to the development of the college sector, aided by publications like U.S. News with its ludicrous school rankings. Schools became monetary profit centers of universities (like profitable sports applications) and in lots of cases have been necessary to kick back funds to the central university administration to support underwrite the rest of the significantly less lucrative parts of the university.

The fees were passed onto recent graduates and, in the end, the legal consumer in the type of high legal fees, particularly in corporate law.

Who benefited? One particular of the beneficiaries was the law college faculty. The standard faculty member at a decent law school has subsequent to no practical experience. Law program went to a top law school, practiced for a year or two, and then went out into the legal academy job industry at the age of 28 or 29 to get a faculty job. A few law professors maintain up their practical abilities by performing pro bono legal work, or by consulting on the side.

Most law professors know valuable small about what it signifies to be a lawyer, and they’re truly proud of this. That’s for the reason that the rest of the university has usually looked at law schools (and business enterprise schools) as essentially trade schools. Given that law professors never want to assume they are engaged in a massive Vocational Technical school, they try to distance themselves from the practice of law.

Second, the actual curriculum related with law school has changed small from the 1930s, when it focused on 19th century prevalent law concepts or ancient tort or house law suggestions. These principles have pretty little to do with the simple way property, tort, or criminal law is practiced in modern America. Most of these laws are statutory, not popular law, anyway.

As if to excuse their woefully inadequate capacity to train lawyers, law professors and law college deans adore to tell incoming students that they do not teach you how to be a lawyer, they train you how to consider like a lawyer by means of the Socratic System.

Of course “pondering like a lawyer” is a silly concept. All it definitely implies is thinking cautiously about an issue. Yes, it calls for a tiny bit of discipline. But it is not tricky, and does not require 3 years of school.

The Socratic System – the one that was produced well-known by John Houseman’s Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase – is also bunk. Most professors never do it properly. And all it amounts to is asking pointed queries and hypotheticals about a thing that was just read, and will quickly be forgotten.

The dilemma with the Law College – which has nearly generally been ineffective at training lawyers – is that it has a built in constituency – the law professor – who is going to fight like heck to retain his or her privileged position.

Law college has been experiencing a boom in the previous four years, as routinely occurs when the economy takes a dive. That’s since rather than go out into an uncertain job market, a lot of young recent college grads (and even mid-career pros) choose to go to college in the hopes of improving their employability. (What they are normally doing is rising their debt load, with no affordable hope of paying these loans back. Therefore the clamoring to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy!)

But as the legal industry continues to endure, even in comparison to other parts of the economy, possible students are going to take other paths, and turn to other sorts of careers, even if those careers are significantly less financially rewarding, for the reason that the sheer amount of money it takes to go to school for three years is also a lot to take into account paying.

In recent conversations with fellow lawyers, I’ve heard about how even prime law schools are getting problems placing their students. That puts the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which is a excellent law school, but not a great law college, in a really difficult position.

If the University of Virginia (a prime 10 law school) has trouble putting one-third of its student class in major law firm positions, what does that mean for the UNC-CH which is not as prestigious and also which has the unfortunate situation of being in a state with only two moderate sized legal markets (Charlotte and Raleigh) and competing with other very good law schools, which includes Duke (even though Duke tends to send students out of state) and Wake Forest, as well as Campbell (which is an underrated school that trains its graduates greater than UNC) and North Carolina Central (which is the best value for a legal education in the state and trains some excellent lawyers).

There are also many UNC Chapel Hill grads in North Carolina government to ever let the law school disappear totally, but its privileged position will start out to erode. As will the privileged position of many law schools.

So what will occur to the Law College? 1st, the smarter college deans will give up the pretense that law college is not a trade college. They will embrace the idea that the entire curriculum really should be revamped to focus on the sensible abilities vital to practice law.

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