Friday, August 7, 2015

Professor Barnhizer on how and why law school "skills" training falls short

Go read Professor Barnhizer's (Cleveland-Marshall) excellent post at his LawNext blog on the how and why law school skills training falls short. Though Professor Barnhizer praises the "dramatic" expansion of skills and "experiential" courses in recent years (as he says "schools are offering considerably more courses in professional skills and values than their critics have realized or admitted") the problem remains that classroom simulations can't replicate the practical and economic constraints faced by solo and small firm lawyers these days. The way lawyers would like to practice law versus the reality and pressure of running a small business representing clients who often can't afford to pay for "bespoked" service is something that most legal educators don't get.  In Professor Barnhizer's words: 

When lawyers and law school faculty talk about the need to teach “practice ready skills” to law students so they can hit the ground running, in far too many instances there is not only a lack of honesty or understanding about what those skills are among the professoriate as well as how you can deal with the stresses and inadequacies of law practice, but a lack of consideration regarding the economic realities of private law practice and how law graduates can survive in a declining and financially challenging environment.


One problem is almost certainly that law faculty members have no idea of the financial realities under which lawyers operate. But another issue is that even if law faculty fully understood the nuances of law practice on every level into which their graduates entered the profession there is no ready answer in terms of what law schools can do to change or influence the competitive realities of law practice. The fact is that many lawyers are “under the gun” to the point that, even if they possess the skills necessary to handle a client’s case adequately (and many do not), they lack the time to do so. Or, and this is an equally serious concern, they are forced to try to cope with an opposing lawyer who is in that negative financial situation and is not doing what is needed either due to a lack of skill or experience, insufficient time, or the need to maximize the revenues on the case through “churning” or bill padding. For many people, survival trumps professionalism.

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Read Professor Barnhizer's full post "Having Skills Is Not the Same as Using Skills" here.


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