Dan Farber’s critique of Siegel’s NY Times article says more than I think he meant to say. If you can Google something, no need to learn it. What happens if Google can *do* it? What does a lawyer do then?
We make little or no systematic effort to find out about what lawyers need to know to do their jobs or to think about how that may change over the next few decades. In fact, we don’t do nearly as well in thinking about these things as the military — for example, the Army commissioned a really interesting study by RAND about how to train officers for combat when future wars are likely to involve situations and tactics that we can’t foresee today (such as the use of IEDs in Iraq).
Farber makes some more broader points about the irrelevancy of 1L classes (one of which I will soon be teaching):
Law schools could certainly benefit from a little self-evaluation. Our first-year curriculum focuses on common law subjects, even though we live in a statutory world. We teach criminal law courses that largely ignore both the drug crimes that are central to criminal practice and the biggest policy issues relating to criminal justice (racial disparties and sentencing). We make every student take civil procedure even though a minority will become civil litigators, and in any event the course teaches little about the two biggest tasks for civil litigators (managing discovery and negotiating settlements). And by the way, it’s hard to get people to teach these courses because most faculty members find them profoundly uninteresting. Thus, we’ve managed to create a first-year curriculum that combines dubious practical utility, lack of policy salience, and theoretical banality. The main reason we do these things is that we have always done them, and it would be a lot of trouble to change.