July 11, 2011
WSJ: Law Schools Increasing Skills Training
Could it be that the new competition among law schools would be teaching lawyering skills? The Wall Street Journal is describing efforts by a number of different schools in that direction. New York Law School, for example, is hiring 15 faculty members from the ranks of practising attorneys to teach negotiation, counseling and fact investigation. Law schools typically offer legal clinics, moot court, and classes in dispute resolution as the academic equivalent for the real world. These classes do give students a taste of law practice, but in a very limited, controlled environment. There tend to be few classes in law practice management.
Imagine teaching students what it is like to actually work in different types of law office. It would be nice if there were elements in a class that explained the workflow of a corporate law department, or what it means to be a solo practitioner. That last one is fraught with all kinds of possibilities. There is how to set up a practice, how to handle a difficult client, understanding how the courts conduct business, and generally all the things a lawyer actually does in the real world. It's one thing to know the legal requirements of a will, and legal drafting classes aside, how to customize one for a client.
Some of the driving points for teaching extended lawyering skills are the complaints by firms that new associates don't know how to be lawyers, and that clients aren't willing to pay for them to get up to speed. That, and a graduate may be a more attractive hire if he or she walks in the door with more of those skills in hand. It would be a positive development if we added more lawyer school to law school. Too bad it comes as a defensive measure. [MG]