Today the Paper of Record printed a long item on How Law Schools Cheat Their Students.
Not really. The thing tells how poor a job lawyer-mills do at teaching their toils how to “lawyer”. It says the schools worry so much about trade school stigma that they commit the unbusinesslike sins of teaching people how to think instead of how to work and hiring profs who churn out goofy papers rather than teach the little law tykes how to keyboard a motion to dismiss.
Call Blawgletter a skeptic. We think the legal academy does fine work in teaching law students the skill they need most — how to think with pristine good sense when others can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t even try. A knack for using logic to head off trouble or master it keeps on giving year after year, client after client, case after case. And you just don’t get as much of a pure ration of thinking without feeling outside the law classroom.
As for training in stuff that calls for know-how more than wit or brains — how to write briefs, draft contracts, respond to greenmail, answer questions from the Board of Sanitation, blog about Law — we’d suggest two things, both of which law schools do more now anyhow. One: urge students to work in the Real World for a bit before buying a Black’s Law Dictionary. Two: offer more chances to do real lawyer things for credit, maybe even require the doing of such things.
What about law firms, you say? Doesn’t the NYT piece highlight their fading power to bill clients for teaching new law grads the nuts and bolts of law practice?
Yes, it does. And there lies the source of the title for this post. The question of whether clients will pay to train baby lawyers isses-may the oint-pay. Of course they’ll pay for it. They have to. Because if they didn’t the hits to law firms’ profits would cause the law firm model to fall apart.
No, the question comes down to How Big a Share each cog in the machine has to bear of the training costs. The NYT suggests law schools should pay a bigger part of the cost. But the truth comes down to the fact that, in a time of more lawyers and firms chasing a stagnant supply of work that doesn’t demand world-class lawyer work, the client trumps all. The newbies, the schools, and the firms must each take a hit. Econ 101, baby!