Paul Lippe, a well-known Silicon Valley GC and founder of Legal OnRamp (LOR), recently posted an essay on the Am Law Daily that essentially argues that law schools, at least in their present form, are not relevant to the future of law.
As a recent law graduate, perhaps I am biased, but I personally believe that academics has a great deal to offer the professional community, although the current legal educational methodology could use some revisions. Academic legal research should supplement professional law, just as academic medical research does for the medical profession, but it should also produce effective and well-trained lawyers.
Despite my belief that I benefited from three years of law school, I still believe there is much to be improved. For example:
- A single final at the end of a term is not the best way to measure or encourage effective learning.
- Forcing everyone to go through moot court (appellate arguments) but not learn how to argue motions in front of a trial court judge misses what most trial lawyers do.
- Similarly, teaching exclusively from appellate courses – and barely showing students a single brief – misses another key part of what many lawyers do.
- Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, acting as if all of us will go on to be trial lawyers at large firms neglects what many of us will really be doing during our legal careers – which is in reality is hugely varied, ranging from general counsel to trial attorney to judge to venture capital to academic researcher to, well, anything.
A professional school that fails to teach the profession — in at least a few varieties and forms — as it is practiced today is not much of a professional school, however effectively it teaches students to “think like a lawyer.”
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