Monday, September 9, 2013

Should Law Schools Offer Interdisciplinary Degrees to Nonlawyers?

At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Carol Parker argues that law schools ought to offer
degrees in addition to the J.D. The degrees would appeal to those in fields where some knowledge of law would be valuable, but a J.D. would not be needed. Here are some excerpts:

The need to navigate and understand the U.S. legal system has grown sharply with the rise of the regulatory state over the    past 50 years. Today it is increasingly important for workers in the knowledge economy to understand how laws and the regulatory environment can affect goals
and strategies in their fields. Law faculties should collaborate more closely with
colleagues in other colleges and departments and offer an array of degree
programs to meet this growing need. Such programs, intended to provide access
to legal knowledge rather than to produce more lawyers, would marry that
knowledge to the subject matter of myriad other disciplines.

Virtually every sector of today's economy would benefit from employing workers with more than
superficial knowledge of the law. Fields potentially ripe for the concept
include health-care policy, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, public
affairs, banking, and environmental sciences, to name just a few.

While the need to acquire a working understanding of our laws and regulations seems only to grow, access to legal information is still largely kept at a premium by legal educators, who provide
it almost exclusively through the juris doctor degree. Completion of this three-year professional degree is required by nearly every state to sit for attorney licensure examinations. However, the J.D. is less well suited to students who want simply to acquire legal knowledge. This is especially true as
J.D. programs move toward a greater emphasis on experiential learning and on turning out practice-ready lawyers.


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