“In today’s world, law schools must ensure that their graduates have the skills necessary for achieving success in the first stages of law practice.”

October 24th, 2011

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about legal education and “practice ready”:

So “practice-readiness” is indeed an important goal of legal education—but we think that law schools owe students more than that. Successful careers begin with competent practice in the early years, but preparation for the long haul is also essential. At the very least that means acquiring an array of skills beyond those usually mentioned in connection with practice-readiness. When we look back at the changes we have personally seen in society and the world, as well as in the legal profession and in legal education, we can only begin to imagine the world in which today’s law students will finish their careers. The real task of legal education must be to prepare students, as best we can, for a lifetime of successful, ethical, and personally rewarding practice.

Law graduates must be practice-ready, not simply in the sense of being ready for the first stage of practice, but by being equipped for a lifetime of professional growth and service under conditions of challenge and uncertainty. Those who are practice-ready only in the narrow sense may have an initial advantage, but that will soon evaporate. Even today, a small-town business lawyer in upstate New York or downstate Illinois will have clients doing business in China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, or Mexico. She may be able to draft a contract, but her advice will be more useful if she has some basic appreciation of the differences between the civil and common law systems.

In other words, there are things that a lawyer needs to know—and law schools therefore need to teach—that are just as important as drafting a contract or a complaint, or interviewing a client. The amount of time and resources that need to be devoted to one rather than the other is an important question for law schools to answer, but both are important, and there needs to be a balance between the two.

The real challenge for legal education is to prepare lawyers for the future without knowing what the future holds. Sound training in practical skills must go hand in hand with a broader and more capacious view of law. “Thinking like a lawyer” is more demanding today than it has ever been. Among other things, it requires us to draw on the methodologies and learning of other disciplines. It is necessity, not fashion, that causes lawyers to pay attention to the work of anthropologists, economists, historians, political scientists, psychologists, and sociologists. We look to those disciplines because their insights are useful—even indispensable—in understanding and solving legal problems in our complex and rapidly changing world.

That is a hell of a lot of generalities and platitudes strung together. I don’t think those 3 paragraphs actually say anything. Really just a rehash of the Carnegie Report.

Note there is absolutely no mention of how legal information products will effectively displace many “practical skills.”