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Law Students Getting Hands-On Experience By Suing Their Law Schools

So what if law schools don't formally offer opportunities for hands-on training to students?  Law students are finding a way to get that training anyway by suing their alma maters, as reported in this article from the upcoming issue of the National Law Journal (h/t to Tax Prof Blog).  Most of the suits challenge policies which negatively impacted a student's grades or future professional opportunities.  For example, one claimed that a professor's use of questions from a commercial exam guide placed him at a competitive disadvantage on the test since the student did not use that particular guide to prepare for the test, while some of his classmates did.   Another student claimed that negligent use of exam software precluded him from submitting his grades in time to compete for a position on law review.  And a first year law student claiming a learning disability who was expelled because her GPA fell below the school's minimum average sued, arguing that minority students with similar GPAs were permitted to continue.  And there's also a class action against a Kentucky lawsuit, that alleges, among other things, a scheme to defraud students and false representation to the ABA.

Back when I was in law school, many of these actions would merit a complaint to the dean, a letter to the school newspaper, or perhaps, a note on the bulletin board (a classmate of mine took the last action when his Torts professor administered an exam consisting almost entirely of questions from a commercial review book).  But twenty years later, with increased tuition costs and diminishing job opportunities for new grads, the stakes are higher; with just a few, scant percentage points separating the fortunate few at the top of the heap from the rest of the pack.  And, in my view, as a society we've collectively become more litigious, turning to lawsuits to solve problems that we once addressed by asserting personal responsibility or through a stiff upper lip.

Perhaps these law students have legitimate claims; I haven't examined the details of the lawsuits.  Even assuming that the suits have some merit, in my view, the students (at least the ones balking about their grades) deserve to fail law school anyway because they've not yet mastered one of the most important lessons that a lawyer must learn:  that you don't file a lawsuit just because you can.  There are other considerations involved, including the impact of a lawsuit on one's business and long term goals, and whether the lawsuit will help effect real change or simply serves as an opportunity to vent.  Here, many of these students who blame their law school for limiting their opportunies are themselves jeopardizing their own future employment with this litigation.  Bottom line: No one wants to hire lawyers who may sue their employer down the road. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 12, 2007 at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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