Law Schools Should Offer an OWendell; Special Certificates; Students Should Get More Training for Jobs outside the Legal Profession

Article excerpt

The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. Oliver Wendell Holmes

The structural changes underfoot in the legal profession have wreaked havoc on the psyches and balance sheets of an entire generation of law students. With clients no longer content to underwrite on-the-job associate training, law firms are finding it uneconomical to hire new grads. Consequently, scores of graduates have been squeezed out of the legal market and left with crippling student debt. Their frustration came to a head in 2011 as over- indebted, unemployed law graduates filed a wave of class-action lawsuits accusing law schools of inflating postgraduate employment statistics. A suit filed in Illinois alleges a systemic, ongoing fraud that is ubiquitous in the legal education industry and threatens to leave a generation of law students in dire financial straits. Hell hath no fury like a scorned J.D.

The industry contraction is not a flash-in-the-pan. In his book, Failing Law Schools, law professor Brian Tamahana estimates that law schools produce 45,000 graduates annually. Against this putative supply, Tamahana projects that there will be demand for only 25,000 lawyers each year through 2018. Improvements in global communication infrastructure will further exacerbate the supply glut. Outsourcing firm CPA Global can charge one-eighth of the price of an American law firm for legal work performed by one of its Indian attorneys. ValueNotes, an Indian consulting group, estimates that Indias legal outsourcing revenues will grow from $440 million in 2011 to more than $1.6 billion in 2014. A large percentage of this growth will come at expense of aspiring associates. Enhanced computer programs, such as e-discovery software, will further reduce the need for human capital.

Employing logic that only the Mad Hatter could appreciate, law schools have responded to the crisis by incorporating more real world legal skills classes into their curriculums. This means an increased focus on trial practice, client counseling and legal writing. The Washington and Lee School of Law redesigned its third- year to make it predominantly practice-oriented. New York Law School has hired more working attorneys to teach classes in client counseling. Numerous other law schools have similarly doubled-down on nuts and bolt legal training.

In the face of increased supply and muted demand, it makes little sense to force-feed students a diet of specialized legal skills that have little application in fields outside of law. …


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