Sunday, April 11, 2010
Over at Above the Law, Elie Mystal will be reporting during the next few days about his impressions of the recently concluded "Future of Education" conference co-sponsored by Harvard and New York Law School. In his first post entitled "Corporate Counsel Puts Fear Of God Into Legal Educators (And You Should Be Worried Too)," he reports that United Technologies General Counsel Paul Beach and USC Professor of Law and Economics Gillian Hadfield were pretty brusque in their criticism of the failure of law schools to adequately prepare students for practice. Among the quotes Elie noted from the "Apocalypse Now" session on Friday:
'We don’t allow first or second year associates to work on any of our matters without special permission, because they’re worthless.'
'As [UT General Counsel] Paul said, graduating 3L students are worthless. They’re really, really awful.'
Mr. Beach suggested that law schools would ultimately pay the price for client dissatisfaction by having to lower their overhead:
[Beach] noted that the money which fuels the law school business model (and high law faculty salaries) 'doesn’t come from law firms or lawyers.' The clear message was that clients are looking to drive down costs and that pressure will eventually show up in the bank accounts of faculty.
According to Mystal, panelists warned law school educators that additional pressure to "get small" would come from off-shoring legal work as well as the need to weed out law students "that don't want to be there."
These are provocative statements and that's undoubtedly the point; to force legal educators to think about the moral and practical implications of graduating law students burdened with heavy debt who face an uncertain and ferociously competitive job market (at least in the near term).
Prescient genius that I am, last summer I organized a panel discussion for the 2010 biennial Legal Writing Institute Conference this June on Marco Island, Florida, that will ask a group of employers representing a variety of backgrounds (small firms, large firms, public service, etc.) what skills they want from graduating law students. Among the panelists who signed-up early on is the new in-coming ABA President Stephen Zack who will either participate himself or send another representative from his firm Boies, Schiller. Either way, it'll be a very interesting and timely discussion that we'll report on here at the conclusion of the conference.
Stay tuned, loyal readers.
I am the scholarship dude.