Monday, March 13, 2006
A recent discussion on the Contracts Listserv focused on technology in the classroom and the need for preparing students for practice. The comments raised again the fundamental question that keeps plaguing law schools: are we trade schools, preparing practitioners to serve clients ("Hessian Trainers"), or are we academic departments whose primary focus is scholarly inquiry ("Scholars")?
"Scholar" seems to be beating "Hessian Trainer" again this year in the annual faculty hiring numbers. A look at the new hires cataloged by Lawrence Solum shows that the median new faculty hire graduated from law school in 1999, which means that half of the new faculty hired at American law schools have no experience of law practice at a level higher than mid-level associate. Many have considerably less. When you factor in the clerkships, the advanced degrees earned following the initial J.D., and (in many cases) a year or two as Fellows or visiting professors, you get even less experience at the actual practice of law. Here's a breakdown by law-firm classes of the 85 new hires at this point:
2003-2005 Junior Associate 17%
2000-2002 Mid-Level Associate 29
1997-1999 Senior Associate 31
1990-1996 Junior Partner 14
Before 1990 Senior Partner 6