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April 27, 2015

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Derek Tokaz

"The law is not getting less complex; this will increase demand for legal services."

This is a claim that could use a lot more investigating.

One could make the traditional Republican argument that increased regulation (aka: legal complexity) hinders economic growth. While any given company requiring legal services might need more of it, there could be fewer total companies needed legal service at all.

There is also the issue of the value of newly minted lawyers. As the law becomes more complex, recent grads are even further away from being "practice ready." There may end up being more need for legal services, but fewer people competent to provide those services. Work could get hoarded by a smaller number of lawyers who end up working much longer hours. Or, quite possibly, much work will end up being handled by non-lawyer industry experts who have learned a lot about the law during their career (imagine an HR professional drafting a harassment policy rather than having the company's lawyers do it).

Steven Freedman

Morriss raises some excellent points about the need for and the inevitability of change in the forms of legal education. Harvard is a great model to follow, but does every law school need to structure itself after it? As pointed out by Morriss and many others, currently change is difficult due to a combination of ABA rigidity and the inertia of the current system. Although some progress has been made, the standards should be revised even further to allow greater experimentation. Whether it's a two year degree, different strata of licensing, true online degrees, de-emphasizing scholarship in favor of increased teaching loads, or any number of ideas, why not let schools and states try different models? Are we so certain that the 3 year Harvard model is the only possible model for preparing students for a career in law?

The Most Interesting Breh in the World

I don't always agree with Steven Freedman, but when I do, it's with respect to the above.

Steve, to your question, "Are we so certain that the 3 year Harvard model is the only possible model for preparing students for a career in law?" -- I'm not even sure that the "Harvard model," as its called here, is good for even a bare majority of students.

AProf

Steven, I actually agree with you. The problem, however, is that research is the coin realm.

Many, if not most, professors want to be marketable at top schools. Thus, professors want to keep the Harvard model at their school so they remain relatively marketable at similarly and higher ranked schools.

Lower ranked schools could, however, go recruit lawyers to be professors who have almost no shot at moving up the ladder - for example, lawyers that are graduates from T-50 to T-100 law schools with 10+ years of legal experience. Those folks may be content teaching 4-4 course loads and not publishing and they might be great teachers.

Barry

"Steve, to your question, "Are we so certain that the 3 year Harvard model is the only possible model for preparing students for a career in law?" -- I'm not even sure that the "Harvard model," as its called here, is good for even a bare majority of students."

This is where I agree with Freedman. IMHO the 'Harvard Model' was based on the 'Cravath Model', where a law firm would hire selected, elite students, and then train them in how to practice law.

In the current world, that will be very much the exception; we are seeing that even BigLaw firms are facing obstacles billing their junior associates' training time to clients.

twbb

I think Brian Tamahana identifies the central issue when he notes that:

"Law educators will not go willingly. For the past two decades, the vast majority of law schools have built themselves on the academic model, with large faculties engaging in substantial research. Many law professors under 60 years of age were hired for their academic prowess and see themselves as scholars. They are accustomed to teaching no more than three or four courses per academic year, with substantial time and support to engage in research. Academically oriented professors are the bulk of law professors today and most will not retire or voluntarily depart in the coming decade. Any shift to the mass-market model will face stiff resistance from law faculties."

Since faculty salaries make up most of the budget at law schools, I'm wondering what's going to happen when you get either mass layoffs or deep salary cuts (30%+). I foresee a lot of (ultimately unsuccesssful) lawsuits, and some universities might decide to just save themselves the headache by shutting down the law school entirely.

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