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Learning the Practice of Law in Law School

Over at LegalSanity, Arnie Herz comments on the failure of law schools to teach skills that students will need in practice, such as  cultivating client relationships, seeing how emotional issues come into play in real world practice and developing practical lawyer skills.  Herz notes that this trend may be changing somewhat; he links to this article from the ABA's e-report on how even venerable Harvard Law School is re-examining ways to incorporate problem solving into the law school curriculum.

One problem mentioned in the article is that many law professors themselves haven't had much practical experience.  The article quotes Lawrence Rosenthal, a 1981 Harvard Law graduate, as saying:

"So many faculty members at so-called elite law schools don’t have any significant practice experience, so they manage to convince themselves that you don’t need to know much about the practice of law to teach it," Rosenthal says."

Moreover, most law faculty members don't have to engage in the type of relationship building that practicing attorneys do, because scholarship dictates tenure decisions.  Whereas lawyers by necessity need to engage clients and treat them with respect or lose them, law professors will keep their jobs whether they're responsive or accessible to students or not, so long as they meet applicable publishing requirements.   It's hard to train students to act a certain way when you don't behave that way yourself.  For that reason, unless most law schools are different from my alma mater or professors have changed significantly since the late '80s when I was a law student, I don't hold out much hope that students will ever learn in law school what they eventually figure out on the job.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 30, 2006 at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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