Law School Training: Bridging the Gap between Legal Education and the Practice of Law

By Dilloff, Neil J. | Stanford Law & Policy Review, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview
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Law School Training: Bridging the Gap between Legal Education and the Practice of Law

Dilloff, Neil J., Stanford Law & Policy Review

TABLE OF CONTENTS  INTRODUCTION      A. Efforts to Reform Legal Education Are Not New      B. A Dual Perspective I.   CHANGE: BOTH A CHALLENGE AND AN OPPORTUNITY FOR LAW SCHOOLS      A. Basic Competence Out of the Starting Blocks is Required      B. Law Firm Efforts to Train New Hires II.  MELDING THE "THEORETICAL" WITH THE "PRACTICAL"      A. Teaching Effective Communication Skills      B. Writing for the Real World      C. Talking: English for Lawyers      D. Diagnosing the Client and the Case         1. Developing Judgment         2. Developing Problem-Solving Skills         3. Developing People Skills         4. Learning Teamwork         5. Learning Organizational and Time Management Skills         6. Developing Business Savvy         7. Learning How to Develop Business         8. Learning How to Supervise Others         9. Learning How to Focus on the Big Picture         10. Using Common Sense and Understanding Average People III. WHAT DO LAW STUDENTS AND LAW GRADUATES WANT TO BE TAUGHT? IV.  WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT THEIR NEW HIRES TO BE TAUGHT? V.   WHAT DO CLIENTS WANT LAW SCHOOLS TO TEACH? VI.  A SUMMARY OF WHAT LAW STUDENTS, NEW GRADUATES, EMPLOYERS,      AND CLIENTS WANT VII. HOW TO STRUCTURE WHAT NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT? VIII. HOW TO TEACH WHAT SHOULD BE TAUGHT?      A. Student Role-playing      B. "Real-life" Third Party Simulations and Demonstrations      C. Getting Out of the Classroom IX. WHO SHOULD BE DOING THE TEACHING? X.  A PROPOSAL FOR A MODEL LAW SCHOOL CURRICULUM XI. THE END GAME: BETTER NEW LAWYERS AND JOBS 


Over the past several years, there has been a plethora of articles by law school administrators, (1) faculty members, (2) legal foundations, (3) practicing lawyers, (4) judges, (5) various commentators, (6) and national, state, and city bar associations (7) about the perceived gap between what currently is being taught in the nation's law schools and what various practicing members of the legal profession believe needs to be taught. In addition, law schools have conducted various symposia in which law school administrators, faculty, and practitioners have met and discussed ways to improve law school curricula so that what a student learns is immediately useful to the student, and to his or her employer, when the student enters the workplace. (8)

The backdrop for the renewed attention to making legal education more practical has been the dismal job market for lawyers, which is now entering its fifth year. (9) Law graduates are scrambling for jobs in a buyer's market. (10) Employers are looking for applicants who have the training, legal maturity, and experience to become instant contributors to the productivity of the firm, corporation, or agency. While few employers expect recent law graduates to be able to meet job demands without some acclimation and on-the-job training, many employers no longer have the time, will, or finances to dedicate to training new lawyers. (11) Accordingly, those law schools that are able to turn out "finished" work-ready graduates will move to the head of the pack, and their graduates will have a leg up in this uncertain job market. (12) This Article will explore ways for law schools to accomplish this mission.

A. Efforts to Reform Legal Education Are Not New

For many years, practitioners and judges have complained about the "inability of recent law school graduates to handle basic legal matters." (13) While the nation's law schools have partially responded to these criticisms with more clinical courses, (14) there has been little comprehensive change in how lawyers are trained. In 1992, the American Bar Association's Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar published a report entitled Legal Education and Professional Development--An Educational Consortium, commonly known as the MacCrate Report, (15) and in 2007, the Carnegie Foundation published Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, known as the Carnegie Report.

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Law School Training: Bridging the Gap between Legal Education and the Practice of Law


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