July 2, 2012
Betting on the Next Generation of Law School Graduates
Two years ago, I got a call from Jack Crittenden, the editor-in-chief of The National Jurist, a publication targeted at law students. Jack asked me if I would be interested in writing a column for the magazine.
After thinking over the offer, I concluded that it would be a good way to "diversify" my intellectual capital. Many of my ideas are outside the legal academic mainstream and are critical of the status quo. Yet, I reasoned that law students would be one group more inclined to give me a fair hearing. Why? Because in 2010, as in 2012, a disproportionate number of students were/are getting shortchanged by a miserable job market. When the status quo closes its door on you, the mind naturally becomes open to new ways of viewing the world. Further, regardless of the current job market, for the next 20 years the influence of this generation of law students will only grow.
So I accepted Jack's offer and started writing. I will be eternally grateful to Jack for making me that offer (and eternally grateful for tenure, which provides the platform for the long term and the unorthodox).
When I started writing the National Jurist columns, I never quite knew how they would end. In an attempt to break down the distance between the student and the professor, I recounted some of my own (inglorious) law school experiences. Unconstrained by form, I just wrote what was honestly on my mind to an audience I really cared about. It was refreshing, that's for sure, but much to my surprise, these essays seemed to boil down my academic ideas into something useful and practical. The emails I started receiving from students suggested that I was making progress.
Ironically, the National Jurist writings are now influencing my academic work, including several essays I am writing this summer on legal education and the legal industry. Yet, the true virtue of those essays may be their brevity. So, in case you are curious about the subversive ideas I am passing along to our youth, with Jack's permission, I am republishing several of these essays on the Legal Whiteboard.
- The Inferiority Complex of Law Schools (Mar 2012) [original PDF]. Suggests that we law professors are plagued by a century-old inferiority complex that obstructs our ability to be effective educators.
- Is a Great Lawyer Made or Born? (Jan 2012) [original PDF]. Provides some science-based clues for why some lawyers fail and others succeed.
- Seduced by Legal Brands (Sept 2011) [original PDF]. Relates the very moment in my legal career when I became a skeptic of brand-name law schools and law firms.
- The Client-Focused Lawyer (Jan 2011) [original PDF]. Discusses the disconnect between law school classes and the skills needed to become a successful lawyer.
[posted by Bill Henderson]