Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Imagine a world with no bar exam or ABA standards. What should students learn to be effective lawyers?


Next month, I will speak at a legal conference in Chicago. The invite-only audience will consist of in-house counsel, law firm partners, academics, and legal tech pioneers. The website for the conference has not been updated to reflect my new school or topic, but I have titled my talk “Why Lawyers Need to Demand that Law Schools Innovate or Die.” In the 20 minutes allotted to me, I hope to discuss the state of legal education, the bar passage crisis in so many states, what the bar should test on, the push for “practice-ready” graduates, the effect of the rise of artificial intelligence, and what law schools can and should do differently to educate tomorrow’s lawyers. It’s a good thing I’m a fast talker.

I will be looking at the programs mentioned in this article as well as some innovations mentioned in this article, which mentions my institution, the University of Miami and its LawWithoutWalls program, which I have participated in since its inception in 2011. In fact one of my LWOW mentees, Margaret Hagan, now heads a program at Stanford, which I will highlight.

I have a few questions for the readers, as I prepare my presentation. Assuming (just for a minute) a world with no bar exam and no ABA standards:

  • If you are a practitioner hiring graduates, what would you want law schools to teach more of or less of?
  • If you are a professor, how would you teach differently, especially if you are teaching core or bar classes?
  • Should we be teaching more or fewer courses online?
  • Should we have more clinical courses and experiential learning opportunities or are these “nice to haves”? Do the ABA Standards go too far or do they not go far enough?
  • Do we need 3 years of law school? Or do students barely learn enough in 3 years? See more on this debate here.
  • If you are a recent graduate and are now either self-employed or working with others, what do you wish you learned in law school in the offered courses?
  • If you are a recent graduate, do you think there are classes that law schools should be offering but don’t?
  • In the age of artificial intelligence and ROSS, which can go through 1 million pages of legal text a second to perform legal research, should we be teaching students different research skills? Should students learn more about legal technology? Should they be able to explain both the rule against perpetuities and legal chatbots?
  • How much training/teaching should employers do and how much should law schools do?
  • How can we address the access to justice crisis? Can legal tech help? 

I know that just discussing any one of the questions above could take more than 20 minutes, but I value your thoughts. Please feel free to leave comments below or send me an email at

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