Friday, September 7, 2012

President of Rhode Island Bar says "Let's kill all the law schools."

And then reinvent them in a way that provides students with a more practical education. The editorial, "First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Law Schools" by R.I. Bar president Michael McElroy, appears in the current issue of the Rhode Island Bar Journal:

Traditionally, the first two years of medical school are spent taking foundation classes such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, immunology, how to take a history and a physical, and related courses. Patient care begins in the next two years of medical school, and students are generally rotated through specialties such as internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, neurology,
and emergency medicine.

Comprehensive exams must be passed at the end of the second and fourth years, and the M.D. is awarded. This is followed by a one-year internship, another comprehensive exam, and then, at least two more years of residency. If a doctor wants to specialize, then fellowships of varying additional years are required. Board certifications and hospital privileges must be obtained.

Instead, imagine if we trained doctors solely in classrooms and only for three years, with no patient contact, and had them, almost exclusively, read nothing but medical case studies. Then, without ever having been required to see a patient, give an injection, or work in a hospital or doctor’s office, they are awarded their M.D.
If they pass an exam, they receive their license to practice medicine, and are unleashed on the public. The license would allow them to practice medicine in any field without any further training. Heart surgery? No problem – you are a doctor, you have your license, so grab a scalpel and let’s get started! Well, isn’t that how law schools train lawyers? It was for me.

Most new lawyers have never been inside a courtroom, been to a closing, done a title examination, prepared a will or a promissory note (or even seen one), or learned any of the many skills needed to practice law on a daily basis, with one exception – they know how to read appellate decisions. In my personal opinion, they are no more prepared to represent a client than a doctor with a similar lack of training would be prepared to treat a sick patient.

Up until a few years ago, when the U.S. economy tanked, this legal training gap was filled by law firms, large and small, that would hire new law school graduates as associates and start their internship and residency in the practical aspects of how to represent a client and run a law office. Think of the skills you need to do your job every day. How many of those skills did you learn in law school? My personal experience is that I learned about 5% of what I need in law school. The other 95% I learned from other lawyers, CLE programs, or by just bumbling through.

What do I need to know to run my solo law office? How do I hire (and retain) quality
employees, rent office space, attract and keep clients, track time and expenses, send out and collect bills, handle accounts and file and pay taxes, buy insurance, keep organized, meet deadlines, keep the computers, printers and copiers running?

What do I need to know to practice law?

. . . .

Continue reading here.


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I made a similar suggestion (revamping law faculty hiring standards) years ago. Of course, it has been rejected, and would be rejected again if I bothered to bring it up again. Even my idea of structuring curriculum transactionally (courses on renting property, handling a DUI case, selling a car, forming a business, helping a client whose child has been attacked by the neighborhood bully/thug) was picked up only in a few places and not very well. The reason is that few law school faculty could teach one of these courses unless they taught in teams of four or five or more (including adjuncts), which is a huge administrative challenge in terms of scheduling and workload balance. So it's not really a matter of destroying the law schools. It's a matter of reshaping faculty recruitment, another topic that has endeared me (not) to law faculty.

Posted by: Jim Maule | Sep 8, 2012 7:26:54 AM

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