February 22, 2012
BigLaw managing partner says traditional legal education is best preparation for contemporary law practice
[ABA Journal] What are some ways that U.S. lawyers can position themselves to be more competitive? Is there still value in traditional legal education?
[Peter J. Kalis] It’s out of fashion, but I'm an advocate of traditional American legal education. More generally, I don’t think there are new skills American lawyers need to equip themselves with, but rather they need to find ways and organizational structures that allow them at once to serve their clients around the corner and around the world. It has more to do with the new structure of the industry than with new lawyer skill sets.
As to legal education, there are several reasons why a traditional law school education is advantageous. It thoroughly equips students with the concepts underlying all aspects of our legal system, teaches them how to speak with confidence about those ideas and how to express them and integrate them in spoken and written English—all of which is of enormous foundational value. You can learn skills later, but if those skills are unhinged from the conceptual understanding, they render you, to borrow a phrase, “a mason and not an architect.”
By studying law cases in a variety of disciplines, law students gain insight into healthy norms, accepted social behaviors, deviations from those behaviors and how the legal system categorizes and treats those deviations. It’s not an overnight process, but rather an accretive process over the years of gaining knowledge, intuition, insight and, eventually, judgment. If you accomplish this, you are a better human being as well as a better lawyer.
As for those critics who wish to transform legal education into a trade school, they are seriously mistaken.
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February 22, 2012 | Permalink