The Sunday New York Times contains an unflattering look at American legal education, the gist is of which is reflected in the quote from my friend and client, Jeff Carr, General Counsel of FMC Technologies.
The issue is not a new one for most lawyers, particularly those who work in-house and routinely see the issues associated with new lawyers who can barely find the restroom and certainly have not been trained to handle even the most routine parts of transactions or lawsuits. Yet despite this outcry from the consumers of law school graduates, most law schools continue to look at the line in the door rather than the problems encountered by those walking out the door after three years’ investment of time and substantial sums of money. Those few schools (Indiana, among others) and professors (Mitt Regan, Gillian Hadfield, Bill Henderson, among others) are performing a laudable service, but the difficulty of changing entrenched faculties (most with tenure) is something that cannot be underestimated. And while many schools claim to be changing, the sad fact is that most are changing at the periphery and not at the core. Interesting, they are following the lead set by many law firms in confronting
The change that might make a difference relates to the demand front. When students demand an education that is likely to prove valuable and won’t attend schools that cannot or will not provide it, schools will get the message. But as long as students line up and fork over the cash, schools will find it hard to develop the needed momentum for change.