In 2007, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law. (The report press release is freely available, as well as the executive summary (pdf)). The report found that while law schools do an excellent job of training students to “think like a lawyer,” they pretty uniformly struggle to provide “strong skill[s] in serving clients and a solid ethical grounding.” The Report made seven recommendations to integrate practical skills and ethical training with doctrinal education, and called for an
“integrated, three-part curriculum: (1) the teaching of legal doctrine and analysis, which provides the basis for professional growth; (2) introduction to the several facets of practice included under the rubric of lawyering, leading to acting with responsibility for clients; and (3) exploration and assumption of the identity, values and dispositions consonant with the fundamental purposes of the legal profession.”
Remember, this was all in 2007, before the economic collapse and ongoing restructuring of the legal profession. The recommendations are taking on more weight these days though, and were discussed as part of a conference this weekend on potential new models for legal education. The National Law Journal reported on the conference and both old and new suggestions, writing,
“The deficiencies cited in the Carnegie report have only been exacerbated by the downturn in the legal economy, which has slowed law firm hiring and prompted some clients to revolt against paying for the on-the-job training of first- and second-year associates.”
So it may be that where law schools were unwilling to make drastic changes for the sake of improving an educational system, they may be forced to make them to ensure their graduates are viable hires in this economy. The speakers at the conference certainly pulled no punches when discussing the current state of legal education. Paul Lippe, CEO of Legal OnRamp, said
“Law school is not simply incomplete, it’s directionally wrong in many respects because it’s misaligned with where the world really is. In my opinion, most of the things I see that are problematic in the profession right now are rooted in law schools.”
The conference is part of a year-long series focusing on changes in legal education sponsored by Harvard Law School and New York Law School, and we will strive to keep you updated on all the news coming out (a follow-up meeting is scheduled for October, with final recommendations and plans scheduled to be released in April 2011). It will be particularly interesting to watch if or how reformers discuss legal education in relation to public interest and public service work.