Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Pessimistic View of Legal Education

The PrawfsBlawg is continuing its symposium on Mike Madison's For a New Year: An Invitation Regarding Law, Legal Education, and Imagining the Future.  There have been seven contributions so far.

In her contribution, Michele Pistone takes a pessimistic view on improving legal education.  She writes,

"Law school culture is very strong. . . .   we live in a time when the necessity for change is “urgent.” Who are the people who are going to act urgently to bring about this change? Could it be the very same people who are the products of a strong culture of conformity and status? The possibility is extremely remote, and we would recognize it as such in almost any other context."   (emphasis added)

"In my view, law schools are unlikely to be up to the challenge of effecting necessary change absent a deliberate choice to hire people who provide some strong indication that they both disagree with major aspects of law school culture and appear willing to do something about it. As they say in Washington, D.C. “personnel is policy.” I concede that my remedy is an unnatural one, for organizational cultures exist in order to replicate themselves. The prevailing law school culture today highly favors the same qualifications it did twenty years ago, and thirty years ago, and forty years ago, and on and on (law review membership, prestigious clerkship, highly ranked law school and high class rank). But persons with these qualifications are the very people who are most likely to find comfort in the existing system – after all, the existing system was made by and for people just like them. Go ahead and hire Supreme Court clerks if you like, but only those willing to be, so to speak, “traitors to their class.” Otherwise, find some less credentialed “rebels” instead. If we really believe change is urgent, we have no other choice. Only “traitors” and “rebels” will provide the ideas and energy needed to act urgently to overcome the inertia of the prevailing law school culture."

The phenomenon that Professor Pistone is discussing is the "status quo bias"--“The tendency to like things to stay relatively the same.”  This bias is an impediment to change.  Yet change occurs all the time.  We just need to fight harder.  Law students are being educated like it was 100 years ago; isn't it time for change?

(Scott Fruehwald)

| Permalink


Post a comment