Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Law schools must create a more practical curriculum to adapt to the new legal marketplace

To faithful readers of this blog, "old news is no news."  We already know that the convergence of several factors such as the Carnegie Report and the abysmal legal job market are putting tremendous pressure on law schools to better prepare students to practice law right out of the gate.  Nevertheless, it's still nice to be vindicated by a group of prominent legal academics as happened during yesterday's panel discussion entitled "Future of Innovation" at the 3rd Circuit Judicial Conference in Philadelphia.  Representatives from Duke, Harvard, UPenn and Drexel talked about "how they've been trying to better prepare their students for life after graduation."

Among the panelists, UPenn's Dean Michael Fitts noted that:

the legal landscape has changed in such a way that the old curricula just may not cut it anymore.  For example, he said, most law institutions are no longer interested in training new graduates the way they were 20 years ago.  Now, more than ever, graduates need to come out of school with some knowledge of how to apply what they've learned in a real world setting.

And with practice areas at a much higher level of specialization than they once were, law students need to learn "problem solving as opposed to issue-spotting," he said. Martha L. Minow, a Harvard Law Schoolprofessor, agreed that "learning to be someone other than the no-sayer" is important for today's law students -- not just being able to recognize problems but being able to solve them, too.

[A]fter the first year covers the basics, the second and third year must delve into the task of teaching students to understand, as Fitts put it, 'how a substantive legal area actually works out there with people in the field.'

. . . . .

Roger J. Dennis, dean of [Drexel], said his school [offers] a co-op program through which students are sent for unpaid, 18-week tenures working alongside law professionals ranging from solo practitioners to BigLaw attorneys to in-house lawyers and even judges.

The school, according to Dennis, also has a mandatory pro bono program designed to give students 'a real opportunity to see how law counts in context.'

It's a good time to be a legal writing professor, eh?

Read the rest of coverage here.

Hat tip to

I am the scholarship dude.


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