Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, April 16, 2012

I did not know that the ABA's accreditation rules prohibit more than 20% of a law school’s teaching to be done by practicing lawyers. Putting as positive a spin on that as possible, I'd say that the point of the rule is to prevent law schools from constructing part-time faculty- and that makes a certain kind of sense. Unfortunately, the 80% that constitute the majority of the faculty are overwhelming people whose practice experience, to the extent that they have any at all, largely consists of a year or so of a judicial clerkship (valuable-- I wish I'd had the opportunity-- but not really practicing), followed by maybe five years at a large firm, or in the DOJ, or some other, similar post. Very fancy, to be sure, but not really laboring in the trenches either.

In a way it is a moot point. Law schools are producing far more lawyers than the market can absorb, so the fact that they are not actually teaching people much about how to help clients by practicing law is irrelevant. Despite this, I still believe that law is a legitimate subject to study, and a worthy career to pursue, but I wish that the institutions that should be the most responsible for forming our professional culture would behave more responsibly. If I were king of legal education I'd do a few things. I'd eliminate roughly a third of the law schools in the country, for starters. Law schools that are free-standing -- unaffiliated with research universities-- would be the first to go. I would consider instituting a rule which would limit the number of law schools in a state on the basis of the population of the state. I would require that all law school applicants spend a minimum of one year outside of school- and I might extend the real-world requirement to three years, subject to some very narrow exceptions. I would require that at least 20% of the credits required for graduation and bar exam eligibility be skills based courses, and I would start looking at optional ways to reduce the curriculum to two instead of three years. (For some the third year is a good thing, I think.)

That would be a start.

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