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Two-Track Legal Education Coming to a Law School Near You?

What makes a good law school professor? This is a debate that, I daresay, will go on in perpetuity. Bruce brought you some of the latest thoughts on Friday, with his discussion centering on Brent Newton's recent law review article, and the reaction thereto.

Yesterday at Balkinization, Jason Mazzone of Brooklyn Law School came up with a way to employ even more professors. Hooray! 

Mazzone suggests separating legal education into a "professional school" and an "academic law department." Say what now? Let me him elaborate:

Under this approach, the professional school would be staffed by instructors whose job is to teach legal skills to lawyers-in-training. Instructors would not be expected to write books or articles. Instead, they would bring expertise in teaching practical skills.


The academic law department would be very different from the professional school. It would be staffed by tenured and tenure-track professors. The principle [sic] task of these professors would be research and writing. Like faculty members in other departments, they would also teach (more on this below) but teaching would not be their main function. These professors would be career academics.

OK. Where to start? Reading the entire post -- and it's not too long -- left me puzzled. Essentially, what Mazzone is proposing sounds like moving the "real" professors out of the law school building so they can hobnob with their brilliant colleagues working in other disciplines. No, seriously:

The academic law department would be located in a separate building from the law school, closer to the other social science departments of the university.

Well, at least the don't-call-them-adjuncts who teach the "professional school" classes could have offices then.

Hmm. Why might Professor Mazzone long for a world in which tenured faculty can come right out and say that teaching is not their "principle" task? Oh, right. Because he IS ONE OF THEM! Look at all these pesky classes they make him teach. And having to interact with students, having them (foolishly) relying on him to prepare them for a career practicing law? The horror!

But it's all good. Mazzone wraps up by telling us the three reasons his idea is awesome:

There are three main benefits to my approach. First, it recognizes more than our current model that the law is both a subject of academic study and a professional field and that these are distinct features. Second, my approach would improve legal scholarship because the only people producing scholarship would be those who are highly skilled in doing research (and who therefore understand the difference between research and advocacy) and the scholarship would be evaluated in the same way as scholarship in other academic fields. Third, my approach would produce law school graduates with stronger legal skills.

Also, my approach cures cancer.

I, for one, don't buy it. At 30,000 feet, recognition that "law" entails both practical and theoretical components is all well and good. But I don't think it's too much to ask of a law school professor to have a grasp of both. Thoughts, loyal readers?

Posted by Eric Lipman on August 30, 2010 at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)


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