Sunday, September 27, 2015
Since at least the 1980’s, law schools have been chided for doing a poor job at teaching skills. This criticism has been accompanied by pressure to increase their emphasis on skills training. The pressure increased with the publication of the McCrate Report in 1992, and then again with the publication of the Carnegie Report in 2007. But is the underlying premise correct? This article is an edited version of my remarks given at the 2009 mid-year meeting of the AALS Conference on Business Associates. In those remarks, I respond to the questions 'Are law schools teaching students adequate transactional skills?' and 'From the standpoint of preparing students for a transactional practice, what would you like to see law schools change?' To answer these questions, I first describe different categories of knowledge a successful lawyer should have, and examine what people mean when they refer to skills. I then discuss which of these categories of knowledge law schools can and should teach, and which should be left to law firms (based on the comparative advantages of each). Finally, after noting that the heavy focus of law school critics on skills training mask some more significant issues, I share my thoughts on how law schools can change to better prepare students for a transactional practice.