20 April 2009

Law School Skewered

The impractical side of American legal education is roundly criticized in the linked essay, with wonderful quotations from legal academe like this one:

We don’t want law school to be lawyer-training school.

- Marquette Prof. David Papke.

There is a better response, I think, also applicable to teacher's education, which is that many of the traits and skills which are important to doing the job aren't amenable to being taught in a classroom academic setting. But, this response begs the question of why there is not more non-classroom teaching in law school as there is in medical school, why law school is prerequisite to being a lawyer if law schools don't want to train lawyers, and closely related, why law school admissions are so focused on academic ability to do well in law school when academic ability is far from being the only trait necessary to be a good lawyer.

The medical analogy can be extended further. Medicine is awash in various kinds of specialized paraprofessionals, in part to allow more people to serve as medical professionals at a lower hourly rate, while the legal profession has been unreasonably reluctant to do likewise. And, there are people who get PhDs in medicine related fields who are not training to be doctors who could fill the very narrow niche that law schools aspire to fill, while the rest of the students train to be practicing professionals.

Now, don't get me wrong. I loved law school. It was a blast. And, it isn't quite as impractical as it seems at first glance. But, it does have some philosophical hangups about what it should be doing that are inappropriate to its real purpose which is to train lawyers to practice law.

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