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Detroit Mercy Hitches Its Wagon to the Biglaw Star

Ever since the issuance of the Carnegie Report on the need to reform legal education and bring it into the Twentieth Century, the blogosphere has been abuzz with ideas on how to make that happen. Back in October, I posted here about some of the initiatives that law schools are considering, such as incorporating more practical skills programs or encouraging interdisciplinary study. And a recent National Jurist survey showing that law schools are not delivering what students want generated a new round of commentary on how to improve legal education.

But reform may not come in the way that many lawyers hope when they advocate for change, i.e., with increased clinical programs and opportunities for law students to learn about the business of law. Instead, law schools may opt for the business model implemented by Detroit Mercy (described in this article), whose reputation has been improved primarily through strengthening ties to biglaw.

As the article describes, Mark Gordon, Dean of Detroit Mercy has created a curriculum where students work as partners in a mock law firm, filing documents and tracking billable hours. And, Gordon has recruited attorneys from the nation's most successful law firms to serve on the law school's advisory board and to convice their firms and others to consider Detroit Mercy students for new hires.

To be sure, Gordon has also implemented clinics to help the poor and underserved. But as far as I can tell, it's not the clinics that have improved the school's reputation; rather, it's the connection that the school has built with prominent law firms nationwide.

In some ways, law school education is coming full circle, then. The so-called "elite schools" are turning to so-called "lower tier schools" to learn more about their clinical programs, as I described here, while schools like Detroit Mercy are elevating their rankings by building the types of prominent connections that elite schools already have in place because of their alumni. And with so much intermixing of ideas, perhaps the current law school ranking system won't matter much anymore.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 28, 2007 at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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