Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thinking like a law professor


One of the oldest platitudes in American legal education is that the central task of the law school is to teach the student to "think like a lawyer."  This belief is captured vividly by the words of the famous Prof. Kingsfield, who, although a novelistic creation, is merely echoing conventional legal academic discourse on the subject:  "You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer." 

Kingsfield is a parody (I guess), but anyone who has spent much time in legal academia has heard something similar repeated on many occasions.  Here is a criticism of Brian Tamanaha's call for greater differentiation in legal education, in the form of academically versus vocationally oriented law schools:

More than teaching students what to think, the law professor must—like the old adage about teaching a man to fish so he can feed himself for a lifetime—teach students how to think. Whether the client is a corporation whose counsel would’ve emerged from one of Tamanaha’s elite, three-year programs or an average Joe whose lawyer was herded through a cut-rate, two-year school, all clients need and deserve a lawyer who thinks as well as she can.

And  here is an argument that the traditional law school class focused on the parsing of appellate court decisions teaches skills that are critical to the practice of law:

 Reading, writing, and reasoning skills, which are covered by the conventional law school curriculum, are the sine qua non of being an attorney:  one cannot be an effective attorney if one cannot read, write, and reason . . . Perhaps reading, writing, and reasoning skills are still given too much space in the law school curriculum.  But I do not think so, for two reasons.  First, I still encounter third-year students who have not picked up these requisite skills on the eve of graduation.  For them, there is not too much of the conventional courses that teach how to read cases, how to interpret statutes, how to see that one doctrinal line dovetails or is in tension with another doctrinal line, and so forth – there is too little of it.  Second, if one graduates practiced in the art of figuring out what the law is, one can pretty much figure out how to take a deposition.  But the reverse is not true:  if one has practice taking a deposition, but lacks the skills to be able to figure out what the law is, the next deposition in an even slightly different area of law will be a disaster.

These sorts of arguments are no less puzzling for being so commonplace.  Consider some questions:

*How plausible is it that law professors teach adults who have enjoyed the benefits of a minimum of 17 years of formal education before beginning law school “how to think?” 

*What does it mean to teach students to think, or to reason? Does it mean teaching students logic, or rhetoric, or what exactly? 

*Does the traditional law school classroom experience improve students’ basic reasoning skills? If so, how does it accomplish this?

*What does it mean to teach people to think like lawyers?  How is thinking like a lawyer different from ordinary thinking?

*Why is the modal law professor in the contemporary American law school, that is, someone who is now years or decades removed from a very brief encounter, if any, with a very narrow slice of the very diverse world of legal practice(s), well-positioned to train people to think like lawyers, given his or her extremely limited first-hand exposure to that experience?

*Does legal education produce significant improvements in reading and writing skills?  If so, how?  Is the claim here that legal academics teach people how to read and write like lawyers? Again, how are these skills different than reading and writing in general, and why are law professors, given their backgrounds, qualified to impart these skills?

*More generally, how is it that law professors are particularly qualified to teach anybody anything? It’s one of the curiosities of the American educational system that, as one ascends in the hierarchy of teaching, one needs less formal training in being a teacher.  Elementary and secondary school teachers are required to study educational theory and to undergo formal apprenticeships.  Most university faculty have no formal training in education per se, but at least they usually acquire practical experience in teaching as graduate students, before they become full-fledged faculty members.  By contrast, it’s not unusual for legal academics to have literally no teaching background of any kind before they are unleashed on their students.

What law professors are good at is mimicking the professors they had in law school.  That is, they (we) are more or less good at giving the impression that we know what we’re talking about when we talk about law.  This is accomplished mainly by donning various sorts of authoritative personae, which, while not often quite as florid as that employed by the egregious Prof. Kingsfield, are, like his, prone to being punctured by even a modicum of critical inquiry.

I don’t mean to exaggerate: law professors may often do a fine job of teaching their students a certain vocabulary, certain stylized forms of argument, certain rhetorical devices, certain modes of professional acculturation, and so forth.  But if we teach students “how to think” (let alone “how to think like lawyers”) I remain unaware of how this impressive-sounding feat is accomplished – or indeed even what it means.


147 comments:

  1. First!

    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

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    Replies
    1. Well, the part about despair is right

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  2. An Ode to Joan King

    "Joanymandias"

    By

    Percy ByTTThe Cooley

    I met a counsellor from an boutique firm
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand on Joralemon Street. Near them, on the berm,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
    And botoxed lip, and sneer of GOLD demand
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The greed that mocked grads and the school that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    "My name is Joanymandias, Joan King of Kings:
    Look on my networks, ye J.D.s, and despair!"
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that law school wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level asphalt stretches far away.

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  3. I think law professors do a good job of teaching students to think like law professors. Like lawyers, not so much, as pretty much any lawyer who comes into contact with new admittees will tell you.

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  4. These impressionable kids who we've told all their life that education is good still lack reading, writing and reasoning skills, so obviously they need more education at 3-4x the cost of their undergrad studies.

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  5. 100% agree that law profs generally lack the subject knowledge and teaching skills to be such highly paid educators, but let's take this in a different direction.

    LawProf, as someone with many years of teaching experience, how have you adjusted your course content, teaching style, class focus, and furthered your own teaching skills to bring relevance to the classroom?

    Not trying to put you on the spot, but we all know what the problems with law profs are. It's the practical solutions that are of more importance.

    What works, what has been tested and found effective, and are there efforts afoot - at least in your school - to roll out better teaching practices?

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  6. I learned to think like a lawyer. But I didn't need to think like a lawyer to stand in the unemployment line.

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    1. Joan King School of BidnessFebruary 13, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      Whoa, whoa, whoa, you're standing in line?

      Sounds like an honest occupation to me! Check him as "employed." Also, "network."

      Delete
    2. To 7:25, I would have laughed out loud if it wasn't so tragic.
      To 9:28, not to sound insensitive to the plight of 7:25, but I just gave up trying not to laugh. That was hilarious.

      Delete
  7. "Thinking like a lawyer" means "answering hypos on a law school exam." And it doesn't take three years to do this. It takes two semesters usually, three max. If you can't figure out how to be at least consistently mediocre on these exams by Christmas of 2L, you should quit.

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    Replies
    1. Sir, I'll have you know Consistently Mediocre is my middle name.

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  8. What is important in private practice is client marketing and retention skills. That is not taught in law school.

    What is important in house is interpersonal skills of the type that gets one into the most popular clique in high school or into the most desirable fraternity, sorority or club in college. Law school does not teach that.

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    1. Please discuss this in greater detail, particularly the career implications for those who are not of the popular type.

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    2. Long term survival rates for lawyers are not wonderful in house. There are dozens of qualified openings for each job.

      Politics is much more important in house than being able to do the job. That is because most lawyers who are hired can do the job.

      You have changing of the guard all the time in house. There are also large scale layoffs every few years as the economy contracts. Someone is out; someone new is in power.

      A lawyer's ability to stay employed in house has much to do with being able to get the confidence and friendship of people who are in power.

      The game has changed in house, and in this environment of a glut of lawyers, it is really important to be able to befriend anyone important at any time if you want to stay employed. Only the lawyers who have great social skills will survive. You are talking top 15% for sure in this environment.

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    3. I have never been in house, but my friend who was in house would largely agree with this sentiment.

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    4. If there are other jobs out there for you, it really does not matter that much if your boss is a psycho who has run though 4 other assistant general counsels in the last 5 years or if your company constantly culls the legal staff through layoffs, stealth or open. The problem is that there are not always other jobs out there.

      It would be good to get an idea of which practice areas are glutted. Some practice areas that appear not glutted are employment law, investment management, derivatives, anti-money laundering and intellectual property especially as IP relates to technology.

      So it may be that in these areas, lawyers can lose in house jobs and actually find another in house job. If that is the case, screw the first employer- the next place may be bette and a real landing place, which is incidentally possible.

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    5. I am witnessing politics first hand myself right now as literally three lower in house attorneys are held in better regard than the Sr. Supervising attorney. While Sr. Supervising Attorney has been practically handed the job of replacing the retiring director in a few years, he has shot himself in the foot with his antisocial nature and his detachment from the company as he prioritizes family over work to the point where he literally has had numerous complaints inside and outside the department about his availability. Not a bright career move.

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    6. ^^^ Yes, but his children love him.

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  9. I think the more appropriate question is why would anyone in their right mind pay $250,000 to learn to "think like a lawyer." Let's be practical: students pay money because they think (naively or not) that they'll get a good paying job upon conclusion of law school. I think most students would rather pay to learn to think like a gorrilla if that would assist in getting a job at the conclusion of school (no offense to gorrillas - they're doing what nature intended gorrillas to do).

    This statement of "think like a lawyer" is a backwards defense of the indefensible current model and ignores the reality of the job market. Professors can rationalize to themselves that students should attend law school because of the intellectual merits of learning to "think like a lawyer" irrespective of the horrid nature of the job market.

    Let's first get professors and administrators to admit why students attend law school. Then the "think like lawyer" will crack and fall.

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    1. Truer words were never spoken.

      Kids don't go to law school to learn to think like lawyers. They go to law school in hopes of a better career and better financial security in life.

      They go to school for jobs.

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    2. Excellent comment: I've never heard this phrase applied to any of the other so called professions. Do pharmacy schools teach their students to think like pharmacists; what about accountants, engineers, or veterinarians. The think like a lawyer phrase is one of the "snootiest and snobish" stupidities that accompanies almost this whole profession.

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  10. I have taught at the college level for many years. College kids these days can not write well. Fine for those going off to be engineers, officers, business people, and so forth because words are not the sole tool of their profession.

    Lawyers work all day with words, and with the precise use of language. Not saying that law professors are the best writing teachers, but when many 3Ls struggle to write a coherent paper, there's a problem.

    Solution? Not more writing education in law schools. Just proper admissions standards. High GPA, high LSAT, require perhaps a degree in English as a prerequisite for law school. Stop the open door admissions policy where some truly stupid, badly-educated people are getting into law school.

    Kills two birds with one stone. If a JD program is hard to get into, dummies will stay away and the bottom 100 schools will close.

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    1. Riiiight. Good luck with making that happen.

      Don't shortchange us, dude. You forgot to recommend a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.

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    2. I fully agree that the standards for admission should be raised dramatically. Competence in writing should be a prerequisite. Unfortunately, even many of the professors can't write worth a tinker's damn.

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    3. In case you didn't know, the LSAT does have a writing component. I'm assuming it isn't taken seriously because it doesn't get reported in the score that counts for medians.

      Perhaps if that were taken seriously it might matter? People do have to write personal statements as well. But those are edited. The essay at the LSAT is a way to see how people write in a short time frame.

      But because it doesn't matter, no one takes it seriously

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    4. Often the text comes out illegible, as it is carelessly scanned from a copy handwritten in pencil. Few law schools read it. I'm not sure that it proves much anyway, as the writing is too tightly constrained and formulaic to say much about the ability to compose free text for general purposes.

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  11. My experience with "learning to think like a lawyer" did not involve much teaching. If anything, it was the exact opposite.

    Specifically, my legal writing class was a perfect exercise in "hide the ball." Zero substantive input was given regarding structure or research. In fact, tutors were routinely instructed to give vague help so as not to give one student an unfair advantage over the other on account of the mandatory curve.

    In my humble opinion, a better way would have been to make the class pass fail and then walk through writing a memo or brief line by line with detailed feedback.

    I had an appellate clerkship after my 2L year and I learned more working with those clerks than I ever did in school. Mostly because they gave specific feedback and critiqued my writing line by line.

    In conclusion, if law school had taught me to write like LawProf writes, I would probably not be on this blog irritated with my lot in life. But it didnt.

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    1. I second the unfair advantage & mandatory curve concern. That is a very real issue. As I was a non-trad with kids, I had a different relationship with many of my professors than my fellow students did. I was also older than some of my professors. And, my undergrad is in elementary education. So I knew a hell of a lot more about "teaching" than nearly all (OK, all) of my professors.

      I spend more time talking with my legal writing prof in a friendly, social way, than many of my peers. We were about the same age, had common interest, etc. And we discussed the unfair advantage issue once or twice. I basically handled it by assuring her I understood her position and that was the end of it. Any subsequent conversations on the matter were in broad, general terms only. She never told me specifically that she had been instructed by the administration one way or the other, but it was clear it was a concern her collages shared. And there were instances of students pumping profs for info during office hours.

      Hide the ball, indeed.

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    2. As another older student, I find more in common with many of the professors than with most of my classmates.

      Delete
  12. Like with most things, I think you are either born to be a lawyer or not. Law school did not teach me to "think like lawyer". Right out the chute I did well, and from 1L to graduation I didn't change my way of doing things. From LS up through today, the issues just seem to jump off the page. I have a puzzle-solving mind....and I am very detail oriented (anal retentive?)...I cannot sleep until I resolve things. I have remained employed as an attorney for nearly 20 years - in-house pretty much from the start, GC at a multi-state company before I was 30. More often than I like to admit, I work with outside lawyers who "just don't get it". It seems as painful for them to counsel as it is for me to watch them try to do it. I know they are stuck - either because this is the only career they have had or because they are so deep in LS debt that they are afraid to try something else. A kid can go to the batting cages for hours every day, but if he wasn't born with the innate abilities of the great hitters he will never be great - sure the greats can get greater by practicing, and a slug can learn to hit the ball some of the time, but eyes that can track a 100mph fastball and a brain that can process that into a hit in a nano-second can't be taught.

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    1. Thus Spoke ZarathustraFebruary 13, 2013 at 7:56 AM

      Have you considered the possibility that you are simply too awesome for this realm of existence and you need to migrate to a higher plane of being?

      Delete
    2. Verily, Anonymous @ 7:32 A.M.is an ubermensch of Khan Noonien Singh like proportions.

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    3. Damn homie from 7:32, you's an original gangstah lawyah, big dawg.
      Remind me of when I got into dis here chicken game back in da day, I knew I was a bad chicken frying motherlover... word to big bird. See couldn't nan one dem other chicken shacks fuck wit da original cuz, check it out: I was straight up born to fry up chickens partnah.
      Jus like you was born to rack and stack dem der billable hours I was blessed by da lawd wit the skills to:

      kill, grill, fry and dry, all day baybay, you heard.
      Chicken up, all otha meats down.

      So wether you a professor or a 1L scrub-a-dub come on down and let me fry you up a 2 piece wit a biscuit ya'll.

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    4. "A kid can go to the batting cages for hours every day, but if he wasn't born with the innate abilities of the great hitters he will never be great - sure the greats can get greater by practicing, and a slug can learn to hit the ball some of the time, but eyes that can track a 100mph fastball and a brain that can process that into a hit in a nano-second can't be taught."

      Narcissistic douchebaggery like this can't be taught either. But the notion that someone who's only worked corporate in-house since the beginning of his career thinks of himself as a legal superstar is as hilarious as a law professor who thinks he's teaching students "how to think like a lawyer." So thanks for that.

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    5. 7:32a.m. is a troll. If he was the brilliant success he claims to be, he wouldn't be posting that kind of thing here; it's doubtful he would even be here reading.

      Delete
  13. In the end, "professors" and deans - as well as university admini$trator$ - are serving themselves. They need young people to buy into their nonsense.

    A few more questions, perhaps:

    *If "law professors" are so qualified to teach reading, writing and reasoning, then why are they seemingly incapable of figuring out that there is a GLUT of attorneys, in the United States?

    *If "law professors" and deans are such intellectual heavyweights, then why did they get their collective asses THUMPED by a few scambloggers, news articles, and neutral data?

    *Is learning how to think - through the advent of reading parsed public court records - worth an additional $110K-$175K in non-dischargeable debt?

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    1. Nando, I think you think rather highly of yourself. No scamblog has "thumped" law professors. They're still happily enjoying all the trappings of their charmed careers, while you're ... um, what are you doing these days? Still savaging your own reputation online? Embarrassing your patents? Growing that delicious beard you had going on in law school?

      Campos is the only scamblogger these days landing any blows.

      Delete
    2. Learn chronology, fool. Tom the Temp, L4L, Loyola 2L, State of Beasley, Exposing the Law School Scam, BIDER, Jobless JD, JD Underdog, Esq. Never, TTR, and others led the way. The same goes for certain posters on JDU, TLS and other forums. Our work attracted the attention of Slate, WSJ, and of course, David Segal.

      Campos has done great work. In essence, he has legitimized our work. We were correct in our assessment, and backed up our case with facts, charts, graphs, BLS data, NALP info, industry statements, etc. However, morons such as yourself still relied on the tired canard "You guys are all a bunch of unemployed losers."

      When you have a moment, ask Brian Tamanaha who inspired him to go after the schools more aggressively.

      Take a look at this entry, from December 28, 2012:

      http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2012/12/looking-back.html

      "A lot of people have helped make this happen, and I want to mention just a few of them here, in no particular order (apologies in advance for many unjustifiable omissions):

      On the blogs:

      Scott Bullock
      Loyola 2L
      Nando
      JD Underground
      Matt Leichter

      In the media:

      David Segal
      David Lat
      Elie Mystal
      Bruce MacEwen
      Ashby Jones

      In legal academia:

      Brian Tamanaha
      Bill Henderson
      Deborah Merritt
      Deborah Rhode
      Paul Caron

      Edit: The problem with tossing off lists like this is the danger of a truly absurd omission, i.e., I failed to mention Kyle McEntee, Patrick Lynch and Derek Tokaz, aka Law School Transparency, who ought to get some sort of category all to themselves."

      In the end, several people made this possible. How often does such a small group kick the hell out of a billion dollar industry, you simpleton?

      Delete
    3. Nando, haters gonna hate. Don't get your feathers up.

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    4. Oh Nandette, you're quoting the past, but it weakens your argument!

      Sure there were others before. But out of that entire list, who is left standing? A tenth of the original bloggers?

      Yet who is left standing when it comes to law schools? Um, all of them. Every last one. All the profs too.

      What happened? The bloggers all retired after delivering so many fatal blows to law schools? Or they got bored, were driven off by infighting and territory disputes instigated by you, got law jobs, grew up and chose more mature avenues for change (e.g. LST and ITLSS instead of Third Tier Reality)? And ideas?

      So my point is not that the scamblogs have done nothing. There have been many steps towards transparency and reform. It's with your characterization of the battle. Thumping? Um, no. Kicking the hell out of a billion dollar industry? Um, are you living in a dreamworld?

      You were once an effective scamblogger. Now, seeing as you think the battle is all but over, complete with fictional kickings, thumpings, and destroying this industry, you've become a touch useless. Get with the program. No thumpings have occurred. Nor kickings. Not yet, at least. And if you'd been paying attention, you'd see that the law school scam is very much alive and kicking.

      How about you rejoin the fight and fight as hard as Campos?

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    5. @824,

      Now tell them that you were quoted in the New York Times.

      LOL

      Delete
    6. Yes, wheel out that antique again, like grandpa showing his war medal from 1942. Yeah, great, you and hundreds of thousands of other people got the same thing.

      As was said earlier, few claim that scamblogs have been ineffective.

      But fewer would claim that scamblogs have kicked the the hell out of a billion dollar industry. For someone as rabid about accuracy, Nando, you sure like to mischaracterise and exaggerate when it suits you (or your ego). Take a leaf out of Campos's book, and leave your self-congratulation at home. He has accomplished 100 times more than you on this fight, but doesn't list his credits after each post.

      This war is just beginning, Nando. So put away the "Mission Accomplished" rhetoric. Lots left to do. Campos is doing it. You're not. End of story, my chubby, wispy-bearded friend who looks like a middle school kid.

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    7. Leiter, seriously, what is with your obsession with Nandoodoo's (180, hilarious nickname btw) beard? It's really fucking creepy.

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    8. By "looks like a middle school kid" you mean isn't a fat, disgusting shitboomer who is a week away from a heart attack.

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    9. 1:04, you might want to see his photo before you make statements like that:

      http://www.jolesch.com/csEventPhotoBrowse.aspx?EventID=2133&Group=0&Cat=0&PartID=22

      Delete
    10. Does he look like a fat, disgusting shitboomer to you?

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    11. So Nando looks young. That’s a sign of longevity, and certainly better than looking like a child molester: http://www.autoadmit.com/leiterportrait.jpg

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    12. Does Nando get credit for creating the phrase Third Tier Toilet, which is now common usage, or did someone else come up with that?

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    13. ^ No. I don't know when Nando started blogging, but I think it was some time around 2009. The abbreviation "TTT" was used at least as far back as 2004 on auto admit.

      As for all this talk about Nando being incorrect that law schools have been thumped/had their asses kicked, it sounds like a law professor or two chiming in (and who might that be?). Despite the fact that no law schools have closed (yet), they're now faced with a serious crisis, thanks in large part to scambloggers. Call it what you want, it's reality.

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    14. Georgetown, a top 14 school, is now essentially begging for students.

      No thumping there, you stupid, scamming law "professors"!

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  14. Along these same lines, I offer you Prawfsblawg.

    And don't ask them even to dignify the comparison of the typical legal writing experience offered in the first year of law school to a Kaplan bar course that provides much more specific feedback for a fraction of a cost.

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    Replies
    1. Great comment thread. Thanks for the link. (And the comments you and guys like MacK wrote!)

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  15. It's the classic "oh, of course, then, well said, hrumph hrumph hrumph" smoke-and-mirrors response of academia. Thinking like a lawyer is self-evident and self-referential: point made without support, 'nuff said, and if you have to ask why this is valuable then you clearly don't understand and are incapabile of understanding.

    The law school cartel's response is no different than a high-end boutique- "if you have to ask how expensive it is, you can't afford it."

    So true, so true. And, since no one but the uber-wealthy can afford it, the market has responded, bitchez!

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  16. If law professors were serious about improving the writing skills of their students that would dispense with the ridiculous essay final exam and would have papers, memos, and other writing tasks as the proxy for grades.

    Oh, and research and writing professors would be more than 2nd class citizens.

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    1. "Oh, and research and writing professors would be more than 2nd class citizens."

      Only the ones that draft meaningful scholarship, of course.

      Delete
  17. bottom line, if you wouldn't be successful without a law degree, you won't be successful with one. you might get a job out of the gate making a lot of money at a firm (and the odds of this are very low), you might get a prof job where you don't have to hustle to make your nut (odds even lower), but if you're looking to go to law school as a way to get a high-status job without the pressures of salesmanship, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship, you're barking up the wrong tree.

    thinking like a lawyer has nothing to do with it.

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    1. The flip side is more important. If you would have been successful with no law degree, you sure as hell won't be successful with one.

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    2. absolutely, 8:11. i should have said that explicitly as well. law school shills trade on the idea that the credential will make you successful (i.e. all you need to do is learn how to think like a lawyer). in fact, you don't need the credential at all to be successful. even in the case of the law itself! hell, justice jackson didn't go to law school and all he did was prosecute hermann goring. if only he'd learned to think like a lawyer.

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  18. Thank you for writing this, Law Prof. It's as my Iyengar instructor likes to tell me, "You can't learn what you're not taught." I get that law school (and, in particular law school exams) are intended to test one's ability to tease out discrete principals underlying a complex series of facts and then these principals into a firm conclusion about the facts. What law school (and, in particular, law school professors) do not do is engage in any meaingful form of pedagogy that teaches this skill unless it already exists natively in the student.

    That you can flounder through every single law school exam you take, but suddenly (after only a few months of intense studying - amounting to, let's face it, a form of self-hypnosis) can master the essays section of the New York bar exam tells you something about the very real limits to the way law school it's overall vulnerability once taken out of the hot house of law school

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    1. Actually, that just tells you that bar exams are just as broken as law schools are. Neither has much connection to legal practice.

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  19. What's striking to me about the Michael Mannhheimer post Lawprof links to is his statement that he teaches 3Ls who have not yet learned appropriate reading, reasoning and writing skills for law practice.
    I don't doubt that is true, but I really don't think he grasps the significance, which is that those are undoubtedly people who had no business whatsoever attending law school in the first place. Not to blame them, they should not have been encouraged to mortgage their futures for a worthless legal education by profs and deans who absolutely should know better.
    On a related note, this is the first time I have been aware of the existence of something called "Salmon P. Chase College of Law," which is apparently an institution that has some rational basis to exist.

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  20. my prof was always going on and on about teaching us to think like lawyers. she's never practiced law anytime, anywhere, anyplace. her exam featured zombies and time travelers. how does that teach us to think like lawyers?

    her syllabus said we could tape the lectures so i taped one of her lectures on contracts between merchants. i played it for a business lawyer who is a family friend. at one point, he started laughing and stopped the recording so he could call in other lawyers to enjoy it. before long there were four lawyers in the room laughing their asses off.

    "teach me to think like lawyers"? yes. it taught me to laugh at and despise my professors, like a lawyer would.

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  21. "It’s one of the curiosities of the American educational system that, as one ascends in the hierarchy of teaching, one needs less formal training in being a teacher."

    This is a valuable point, and explains why most law professors are pretty shit, pedagogically speaking. This is all the more heinous when you're paying so handsomely for their instruction. If I wanted to sort out the material largely on my own, is there a reason I needed to spend $100k+ to do so? (Indeed, is there a reason I have to leave my house?)

    I lost track of how many times the line "What do you think?" or similar was the response to any question posed about the material by students during 1L. This may have some Socratic value, but not terribly much when the class is closer to 70 than 7. It does not matter what I or anyone else there thinks, but it does relieve the professor of having to explain the function of whatever piece of law is under discussion. (Even more annoyingly, sometimes casebooks would do this too. There is little that is of less value, and that is less insulting, than having a *book* play hide the ball. At least professors would sometimes crack.)

    Likewise, I doubt three hours of regurgitation on the final exam, where the grade is determined in distressingly large part by adherence to a credited but untaught formula, and occasionally it seems by random number generator, is really likely to make better readers and writers out of anyone involved, including the professor who drafted it by reusing his own hypos (or, as we've increasingly seen, plagiarizing them from someone else).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "There is little that is of less value, and that is less insulting, than having a *book* play hide the ball."

      This makes me furious. So often after cases there are "notes" which ask questions and give no answers.

      Delete
    2. Oh my God! You idiots really do think you can learn without doing any work, don't you?!?!

      How the hell are you ever going to do anything other than memorize minutiae if the book sets out all of "the answers" for you? Assuming that is--wrongly--that there are any "answers" in the first place. (Christ, who's gonna pay you the cash you think you should make as a lawyer to look up an "answer" in a $120 casebook??)

      Yes, you freaking moron, even after spending all that $$ on tuition, reading all those hard cases, and sleeping your way through the lectures, you are actually expected to turn on damn brain and engage in some original friggin' thought. I'm sorry if that's hard for you.

      Delete
  22. I believe the reason that law professors and law schools trot out the "think like a lawyer" line is because it is completely undefinable and ultimately unquantifiable. Thus, you if you state that as your goal, and then also state you have achieved said goal, there is no way for anyone to effectively refute that claim. It cannot be tested, measured, or analysed. It cannot be proved or disproved. It is a fantastic buzzword. It is complete BS. I am in awe, actually. Whoever thought that one up is a marketing genius.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'd also like to add that, if mastering the skills that (in theory, anyway) lead one to do well on law school exams--that is, mastering the skills of issue spotting and producing concise, readable analysis--is a teachable and valuable thing, shouldn't 2L and 3L grades matter more than 1L grades, when you're still learning those skills?

    Whereas currently, 1L is a lot like learning how to fire a rifle by being shown a rifle, then immediately deployed to the Eastern Front. If you natively possess the skill, you'll (possibly) do okay; if not, well... maybe if you networked more?

    ReplyDelete
  24. How can a law professor know how a lawyer thinks when the law professor has never practiced law?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I disagree with this. For example, the presentation of misleading employment data, fabricating uncertainty about whether law schools are actually a scam, and their utter disregard for any consequences of their actions all amount to tremendous lawyering.

      Delete
  25. I always thought thinking like a lawyer referred to certain stylized forms of argument and the various theories behind different areas of law.

    ReplyDelete
  26. However one defines "thinking like a lawyer," you don't need three years to teach people how to do it. Most law students get it by the end of their first semester.

    ReplyDelete
  27. "Most law students get it by the end of their first semester."

    That is demonstrably not true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, a lot of students who are going to get it will get it by then. And there are certainly people who will catch up after the first semester.

      After that first year, though?

      Delete
    2. Hell, I can teach you how to think like a lawyer with one anonymous blog comment. Hide the ball and manipulate the truth in such a manner that the difference between advocacy and outright lie becomes utterly indistinguishable. Now go forth and hasten the fall of western civilization.

      Delete
    3. "Most law students get it by the end of their first semester."

      That is demonstrably not true.


      It would certainly be true if law professors were actually to make an effort to teach students how to do it, instead of teaching around it.

      Delete
  28. The purpose of law schooling is not education, but ranking. Or the reproduction of heirarchy, as Randall Kennedy put it 40 years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  29. my favorite is that legal writing (a) is made unnecessarily complex by teachers who were all "that person" on their law review and would rather teach perfect citation than basic composition and (b) makes a lot of people worse writers than they came in.

    where i went, 1L LW teachers were especially fond of trashing students' incoming writing skills. i'm convinced this was merely part of the brainwashing that the legal writing curriculum - which is little more than an advanced power writing class - does substantial good.

    many of the more lucid comments on this site come from non-JDers. many of the most hair-pulling come from the people who claim to be T-14 grads.

    ReplyDelete
  30. @Mikoyan 8:53: Well said. If issue spotting and concise analysis are the skills necessary for being a lawyer, then law professors should be ensuring that each student graduates with those skills.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The most unrealistic part of law school exams is the fact that they give you the facts, or most of them, and then you find the issues and apply the law. As most practicing lawyers know, that second part, finding the issues and applying the law, is relatively easy compared to the fact-finding part. Extracting the facts from a stack of documents, uncooperative parties and clients who don't always give you the full picture (whether by way of ignorance or by the artful dodge) is the real art of lawyering and law schools in no way add value to that skill. Or so I see it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This.

      Some clinical experiences can help, but the classroom simply isn't the place to learn the everyday lawyering that actually teaches people how to practice and "think like a lawyer." Unfortunately, the academians have convinced those who matter that THEY hold the secret to "thinking like a lawyer" and their secret is the Socratic method casebook game. In reality, the Socratic method is a waste of time and of almost no pedagogical value considering the alternatives, just like spending hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Professor Derpderp and his articles on Nietzschean philosophy and [abstract noun].

      Delete
  32. Every semester of law school ends with 1 exam.

    After that, it's over an you move onto the next class. Most people don't get any feedback on their performance beyond a letter grade.

    That's got to be the worst way of teaching anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Combine this with 9:16 above...

      "The purpose of law schooling is not education, but ranking. "

      And you have a rather succinct and cynically accurate summary.

      Delete
  33. I am sure you get plenty of email feedback from your posts, but I wanted to reach out about a post on prawf's blawg "http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2013/02/the-false-dichotomy-between-practice-doctrine-and-academics.html#more"

    The author is going to basically respond to the following criticisms to support his conclusion that there's a false dictotomy between practice doctrine ("being taught the mass of adjuncts and untenured lecturers in law school clinics) and academic law (which is presumable taught by tenured or tenure track faculty).

    I don't know how to exactly say it but he's just wrong. There is fundamental flaw in legal education at the law school level.

    To give you a little background about myself. I went to a top law school, graduated less than 10 years ago, worked in a big firm, clerked for a federal judge and am working as an AUSA. In sum, I've won the hunger games that is the legal profession. I am incredibly lucky. I know this. I also don't pretend that my path is easy. In fact, I am constantly telling people that you have better odds in Vegas than following my career path.

    But back to the professors.

    I spend my entire day doing civil litigation. And I have to say law school (outside of my clinical training) was utterly useless.

    Appellate decisions? Not nearly as relevant as it is easy to teach (think about it -- just go through the supreme court and dozen appellate circuits and call it day -- or go through the granular district court -- or even Article I -- jurisprudcence which you've barely had any training in because you spent two years at Mayer Brown doing appellate litigation). You need to understand the scope of law in your circuit (and the way it works in other places), but you are writing in for your district. District courts focus on certainity (as opposed to law professors who live in myopia) like three part tests and burden shifting analysis because it helps people put their legal disputes into proper perspective. Was I wronged? Let's look at your facts, apply them to the law that exists here, and see. It doesn't matter whether there is a economic, philosophical, or critical theory basis to conclude you were wronged -- if you don't fit within the parameters of the law as it exists, you're done.

    Rambling aside, I find it interested that tenured faculty's initial approach is to dig their heels in and say -- "I'm relevant." You might be relevant and even important, but quite frankly the degree to which they control legal education in the country (and push out clincial faculty who truly train future lawyers) is a disgrace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 9:47 - I largely agree with your perspective. Law school is too long (3 years vs. 1 year), too abstract, too intellectual, not nearly practical enough, and to make it worse, way, way too expensive with lousy job prospects. The combination of these factors have caused, as you say, the legal education market to be a disgrace.

      I am involved in training and developing and managing young lawyers. And while of the typical top law school ilk, they are fortunate to be working in a situation with lots of training and development. And I am a stubborn guy - I really want to see them succeed.

      One thing I have discovered is that the better these lawyers did in the first year of law school, well, the easier they find it to adapt to law practice. I agree that the endless abstract groveling over appellate issues and economic theory, or critical theory, or social justice theory, etc., is of little use in law practice. But the principles learned during the first year of law school (if they are learned well) are important. If one of my charges understands the basic (again, not too fancy) principles behind why we do what we do, well, they understand the issues better and do better work as the facts and circumstances take their typical twists and turns. I think there is some awareness of this phenomena, as it appears to justify a needlessly expensive and inefficient three years of legal education.

      I think this all an argument to go back to the LLB days. Filter out all but the brightest who want to attend law school, give it a one year theoretical academic structure (at a reasonable price), and burn in an apprenticeship requirement before the bar can be taken. This of course only works if we can get down to 50 or so law schools, and really discipline the profession. I am naive to think this will work, but this is what a rational approach towards legal education should look like.

      Delete
  34. Professor Mannheimer "encounters" 3rd-year students who haven't "picked up" legal reasoning from conventional law school classes, and so need more of these classes that by his own logic have not benefitted them for 3 years. Did the institution of which he is part not know the first year which students were not "getting it"? What did his institution do about it? Was it effective?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Definition of Insanity?February 13, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    (From the linked arguments against BT's proposals) "Perhaps reading, writing, and reasoning skills are still given too much space in the law school curriculum. But I do not think so, for two reasons. First, I still encounter third-year students who have not picked up these requisite skills on the eve of graduation. For them, there is not too much of the conventional courses that teach how to read cases, how to interpret statutes, how to see that one doctrinal line dovetails or is in tension with another doctrinal line, and so forth – there is too little of it. "


    What's that definition of insanity? Repeating the same actions over and over and believing something different will come of it eventually?

    If after 3 years of applying your methods of teaching one to think like a lawyer, Professor Mannheimer, you find that you still regularly fail to have done so, isn't this an indication that you might need to try something else?


    Sheesh!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Its a great point made above that, if we believe "thinking like a lawyer" means having the skills to perform well on law school exams, law professors don't actually teach this.

    It is like being given a gun and and a target, with no instruction on how to fire. Some of the students are going to hit the target on their own, others won't, and grades will be given out accordingly. Even if you miss the target every time, you'll graduate.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Many law professors spend less than 8 hours per week actually on the law school premises. They teach their one or two classes, keep a couple of office hours, then it's splitsville. Seriously. I'm sure they'd respond that they work real hard from home. Many many hours on their laptops writing their law review articles that nobody reads. "Scholarship" (or, as the law students and practicing attorneys call it, "scholarsh*t).

    Yes, yes. You must not overextend yourselves you hard-working law professors...we are all depending on your hard, hard labor that you perform from home. Or while on sabbatical to exotic locales. I understand that some of you even blog from time to time. Oh my, so much to do and they only pay you $200,000/year to do it. Good thing those kiddies keep paying you with their student loan money. Oh, wait...the kid's don't apply to law school anymore. Uh oh....

    ReplyDelete
  38. To everyone who has characterized a legal writing program, don't assume that every legal writing program is like yours. I don't recognize any that have been described here.

    ReplyDelete
  39. There is nothing more valuable to learning how to read, write, and even to think, than writing assignments that have substantial feedback and require revisions.

    Outside of my 1L Lawyering class, I had not one assignment that came with substantial feedback and none which required revision. Even in Lawyering, our feedback was minimal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very very true. Feedback is key, and it doesn't happen in most law school classes. One exam at the end, with a mystery grade attached.

      Delete
    2. The law school "professor" who taught me the most about actual practice was a teaching assistant who had just completed her 2d or 3d year in BigLaw and was part of a new fellowship program at my LS.

      Out of the "real" law profs I had, I think 1 or 2 at most were able to convey anything of value about how to use the doctrine we were learning.

      Delete
  40. I'm glad that Prof. Campos posted these comments. Indeed, there's no reason a priori to suspect that people who somehow got themselves hired as law professors know beans about pedagogy or have special access to a putative lawyerly style of thinking. Really, it's just the reproduction of hierarchy.

    Everything that I had read about law school said that the experience would transform me intellectually by teaching me to Think Like a Lawyer. After three years of law school, I'm still waiting for the mystical transformation. My manner of thinking has not changed by one jot.

    Prof. Campos, note also that academia forces everyone into the same mold. A bachelor's degree takes exactly four years, irrespective of the student's preparation or aptitude or of the subject being studied. Similarly, law school is always a three-year project, whether the student come in with a 175 or a 135 on the LSAT and whether she go to Yale or Cooley. All incoming students are assumed to need the same amount of training—and to emerge three years later competent in legal writing, Thinking Like a Lawyer™, and so on. Likewise, all professors are ipso facto presumed to be competent in legal pedagogy, however little training or experience in teaching they may have.

    By the way, Kingsfield is supposedly based on "Bull" Warren, who taught law at Harvard about a hundred years ago and had a reputation for browbeating his students. Stories about Warren, many of them probably apocryphal, still make the rounds at Harvard.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Unindicted Co-conspiratorFebruary 13, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    The author of the article critical of Tamanaha wrote "The time-honored Socratic and casebook method of legal instruction, administered by professional educators, is a snug fit with the pedagogical needs of future attorneys."

    I graduated with an appellate clerkship followed by an associate position in the corporate practice group in a big law firm. The "time-honored Socratic and casebook method of legal instruction" taught me an awful lot about being an appellate clerk (I wrote draft opinions), but it taught me nothing at all about reviewing or drafting a contract.

    Fortunately, I graduated in the late 90's when law firms still did what law schools didn't: teach lawyers how to practice law (which, as it turns out, didn't involve the Socratic method or casebooks).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The insanity of teaching transactional law from case books blows my mind. Tax, real property, IP, immigration, contracts, corps etc.

      Delete
  42. I graduated from law school in the late 1980's and therefore was perhaps in the last generation of students influenced by John Houseman's performance as Prof Kingsfield. If you asked people of my generation what "thinking like a lawyer" meant either as expressed by Prof Kingsfield or otherwise, you would routinely get two responses:

    1. Being able to argue "all" sides of any issue (the glibness people have always hated about lawyers) and

    2. Seeing the potential downside to every situation (the risk-aversion people have always hated about lawyers)

    When the Socratic method is used effectively by a non-Hollywood law professor (which I agree is either almost never or really, truly never), it's not merely an exercise in "hide the ball." It's a process of learning that no matter what argument you make, no matter how clever or determinative it seems to be, a smart lawyer on the other side is going to be coming right back at you with a counter argument. Most law professors simply aren't smart enough to make this work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to disagree to some extent here. I don't defend the Socratic/casebook method, but I do think it's valuable to be able to argue all sides of an issue. It's similar to a good chess player being able to anticipate his opponent's moves.

      About risk aversion, yes, I have found this annoying at times with lawyers. But one of my profs did emphasize that a really great lawyer is one who can find creative solutions for his clients, instead of just saying don't do this, don't do that.

      Delete
  43. Also, law professors don't teach students how to write as attorneys. Many times they don't even teach students how to write exams (outside of look at previous model answers -- "do that"). The people teaching writing are the untenured writing lecturers and clinical faculty. These are the first people who are going to get cut (due to the way tenure works). And I don't see students getting this training from tenured faculty mostly because teaching writing is extremely grading intensive. Faculty complain about grading one set of exams per class. I couldn't imagine them grading sets of practice exam answers bi -weekly or providing meaningful comments if they had to do this because of the large class size of first year (and many upper level) classes.

    ReplyDelete
  44. First time I've ever heard this sentiment expressed by anyone else. Thank you LawProf.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Law Prof's observation that the higher on the education ladder one teaches, the less pedagogical training he or she is required to have, is spot-on. To it, I will add this corollary: The lower one teaches in the educational system, the more one has to intuitively understand his or her pupils. In other words, someone teaching second- or third-graders has to understand her pupils' personalities, learning styles and even aspirations (however fleeting or uninformed) more than a law or graduate school professor is required to do.

    It's also the reason why elementary and junior high-school teachers have to come up with newer, more creative and more innovative ways to teach their charges, and law professors can use a method that's been used for ages, whether or not it still works, or ever did work.

    ReplyDelete
  46. In a bygone age, LS prestidigitators could sell their snake-oil mantra with a degree of hubris that today seems farcical.

    Back then, these alleged diviners of the lore held all the cards. Accessing the case law was a tedious affair--precariously balanced piles of unwieldy reporters were the tools students used. Copying, involved contorting a tome's binding so that two pages could be sandwiched on the glass without losing text. In my last year of LS, the library obtained a Lexis and Westlaw terminal that came close to approaching the size of Colossus in the "Forbin Project," and the search results printed on giant teletype like sheets. The whole process of legal research was extremely cumbersome.

    In those days, “thinking like a lawyer,” had a quasi-metaphysical feel to it--the Sensi of civ-pro bestowing his arcane wisdom upon us plebes. I had a gut feeling back then that many of those employed to teach were empty vessels--but without easy access to the case law, it wasn’t as evident as it is today. Unfettered access to knowledge is an egalitarian game changer, but legal academicians find it distasteful when the proles don’t know their place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If we could go back far enough, we'd reach a time when law professors actually studied doctrine and produced scholarship that was actually useful to practitioners and judges.

      Delete
  47. Sit in the unemployment office for a while and you'll know how to think like a lawyer.

    ReplyDelete
  48. You can easily answer the question whether law faculty are qualified to teach by attending 3 randomly chosen faculty meetings

    ReplyDelete
  49. "How plausible is it that law professors teach adults who have enjoyed the benefits of a minimum of 17 years of formal education before beginning law school “how to think?”

    Actually, very plausible. As someone who has had to supervise many relatively new grads, I find that a huge percentage of people coming out of college "can't think" (not necessarily, can't think like a lawyer but, can't think).

    Many are unable to take a set of facts (whether compiled themselves or handed to them makes no difference) and find a solution to a problem that has no single obvious answer. A great deal of modern work is like this: what is the problem and how can I solve it?

    I see it in my field (publishing) as do many of my friends/relatives in other fields that are as varied as electrical equipment, police work, university purchasing and investment banking. I read about this complaint from many employers in the US and other countries as well.

    These workers often have almost zero attention span and can't focus either on the details of a problem OR the big picture. Many people are better at one of these than the other: a lot of new grads can't do either one.

    I am amazed at how many well-educated 20- and 30-somethings can't think analytically, can't problem-solve in ambiguous situations (which are quite common in most professional jobs). They know every software and have every app, but they can't handle (process and prioritize -- and often even find) information.

    Glaring errors of logic fly right past them; obvious gaps in a set of facts don't get their attention; totally implausible numbers don't arouse their curiosity: their work is full of spelling and grammatical errors; mistakes are explained by "it was boring" or "it's your job [as my supervisor] to fix that."

    And some of these folks are Ivy League grads.

    Possibly, there's a smaller percentage of these people in law schools than the general college graduate population, but believe me, they're out there in scarily large numbers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no reason to disagree with your observations. But it seems inaccurate to call what you're describing an inability to "think."

      Delete
    2. tell me more about how "kids today" don't get it.

      shitboomer.

      Delete
    3. Maybe you should hire different people?

      You sound like the big law folks who complain that law students can't write, but refuse to change their hiring qualifications or use their leverage to get law schools to change how they teach.

      Delete
    4. That there are many dumb people shouldn't surprise anyone. As Shark Sandwich said, maybe you should hire some different people. And the fact that you put up with anyone explaining away errors with statements like "it was boring" or "it's your job [as my supervisor] to fix that" makes you seem pretty dumb.

      Delete
    5. Personally, I blame video gamesFebruary 13, 2013 at 1:51 PM

      "These workers often have almost zero attention span and can't focus either on the details of a problem OR the big picture."


      Video Games = Root Of All Evil.

      Delete
    6. See this for an explanation of what's happening.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/09/a-warning-to-college-profs-from-a-high-school-teacher/

      Delete
    7. i can't tolerate this shitboomer nostalgia about how everyone was smarter back in their day. yet they don't know how to locate an attachment they download from an email.

      the ratio of sharp students to dull ones, i'll bet, is about the same as it ever was. or, alternatively, there are more sharp students in absolute terms, but the explosion of higher ed has glutted the market with people with credentials who had no business going to college (or law school!) in the first place.

      now excuse me while i go help my 55 year old boss respond to an e-vite.

      Delete
    8. "yet they don't know how to locate an attachment they download from an email."

      Hilarious.

      "the explosion of higher ed has glutted the market with people with credentials who had no business going to college (or law school!) in the first place."

      Correct

      Delete
    9. Boomers always think they were smarter than us. I am not sure why. I think there have always been people graduating from top schools who were terrible writers.

      It isn't right to assume that lack of selectivity is the problem. Everyone is going to the same schools, if those schools aren't teaching them what they need to know, is it the students fault?

      The people who had no business going to college or law schools are most likely not the ones working at your top law firm.

      Delete
    10. @951,

      "I think there have always been people graduating from top schools who were terrible writers."

      Sandra Day O'Connor, anyone? She was supposedly second in her class at Stanford - this, despite an I.Q. somewhere in the low eighties.

      I swear, I really wonder who she had to blow to make that happen.

      Delete
    11. "... the fact that you put up with anyone explaining away errors with statements like "it was boring" or "it's your job [as my supervisor] to fix that" makes you seem pretty dumb."

      I didn't put up with it. I didn't hire him (and having to supervise people you didn't hire is not that uncommon, as you may find out yourself one day), but I was able to get him fired, after having cleaned up far too many of his messes.

      He went on to one of our competitors in the same city on a one-year contract and repeated much of this behavior. The new employer didn't renew the contract.

      At the new place, the supervisor was just a few years older than this person (early 30s, so, not a "shitboomer"). She didn't tolerate it either.

      He's a bit extreme in his behavior, but not that unusual in his lack of skills.

      About e-mail attachments and the like, is it now considered an intellectual achievement to learn little tricks like that? If so, that would explain a lot of what I see.

      I can learn stuff like that any day. After all, I've been using computers all day every day at work since my first job in 1978 -- you know, since before email, the internet, Windows and Apple, when it was only DOS. I can play computer games too ... so?

      I can think ... and too many of the new people in my office, can't. Software is supposed to be about helping you get your real work done. It isn't the work itself (unless you're at Microsoft).

      Delete
  50. Also, how much of the work of thinking like lawyers is actually done not by doctrinal classes but by the first-year research and writing classes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unindicted Co-conspiratorFebruary 13, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      The most practical classes I took in school were the research and writing classes. They required the most work, had the fewest credits, and the instructors were the most qualified to teach the practice of law (they both worked for years as attorneys in law firms) and were simultaneously the most unappreciated law school faculty (instructors - not professors). None of the Socratic/casebook classes came close to the training from those research and writing courses.

      Delete
    2. Video games require a great deal of focused attention, strategic thinking, team work and quick reactions. Not that you would know.

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  52. More and more I believe that higher education is becoming something of the past.

    ReplyDelete
  53. This is a great post. The cost of legal education is the biggest concern, but it's by far not the only one. The curriculum needs changing badly. If law firms want to reduce turnover and hire graduates with a skill set that better matches their needs, they should stop hiring based on GPA in courses that neither teach nor assess those skills very well. It's the reason why most firms admit that there's very little correlation between GPA and success as an attorney. Yet they continue to step on the same rake, year after year. They got away with it during the "disposable associate" era, but now that clients don't want to pay first years, the incentive is to actually keep people around with actual potential--and actually develop that potential.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Check out this ABC News article:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/legal-education-flaws-invite-radical-solutions/story?id=18470088

    A couple of nuggets:

    1)"...One group that came in for special blame during the Task Force's meeting was tenured law school professors, who, according to the New York Times, "were criticized as having high pay, low productivity and a remote relationship with the practice [as opposed to the theory] of law."

    Law schools, says Lyon, exist more for the benefit of professors than students. "They're among the most highly paid tenured professors in academia," he says.

    - Can't really argue with that.

    2) "...Critics' characterization of a tenured law professor's life—high pay, not a lot of teaching and a predilection for theory over practice--suggests an entrenched caste modeled on Professor Kingsfield, the imperious Harvard Law professor in the movie "The Paper Chase."

    Professor Ngai Pindell takes strong exception to that characterization. Pindell is co-president of SALT , the Society of American Law Teachers, which represents law professors as well as other professionals in legal education."

    - Assume there are 40 law professors at 200 ABA schools. That means that the organization SALT exists to further the interests of just 800 individuals. Amazing. Do you think that there is an orginization representing the 50,000+ students each year that has the same clout? I highly doubt it. What a fantabulous country we live in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 8,000. Regardless, good point.

      Delete
    2. Students could easily create such an organization. Right now, they are voting with their feet instead.

      Delete
  55. Some odd stuff

    Georgetown is asking students to tell them how much they want in scholarships? Not sure if this is before or after they have been admitted- but I'm thinking either eye, this is a terrible policy. They are making the students compete against an unknown factor when requesting aid. The school knows how much they have to offer? Why should it come down to what they students say they want?

    This is wrong. I hope LST and Lawprof look into this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reminds me of car dealership behavior when I went car shopping some time ago. Those salesman always ask you to "make an offer" and then decide whether they'll accept or not.

      Or priceline.com, might be a better analogy.

      But its smart though, if you think about it. Rather than GULC bidding on 0Ls with the most "scholarship" money to get them to attend, they're basically asking 0Ls to bid up the price and then they'll accept those who will pay the most.

      Delete
    2. Crooks.

      My thoughts: redo the deal. You're dealing with scoundrels, so screw 'em.

      Georgetown, I'd like to enroll, but I need at least $15,000 per year to do so. Can you do it? You can! Oh, I'm sorry to call again, but I did something similar with a peer school. I can't disclose the name, but it's also T14. When I said they could do $15,000, they offered $25,000. Can you beat it?

      What are they going to say? Worst is "no."

      It's like the early decision bullstuff schools pull for undergrad. "By accepting this, you withdraw your apps, blah, blah, blah." Is there really any consequence to violating if you change your mind? Should there be? Why?

      Schools exploit good kids. Screw them. You have the dollars, you make the call. Period. Think like a lawyer. Think like a businessman.

      I once told a law professor who got a little too full of himself, "I'm the customer here." (He probably thought that I was a little too full of myself, but fuck him, my money and I'm the customer.)

      Delete
    3. Just FYI: this is very different from early admissions. IF you are accepted early admission, you must withdraw your acceptances at all other schools. If you don't, the school will find out throught LSAC where else you have applied. You will lose your admission and be blacklisted.

      What you can do is decline to attend for a year and then reapply. It is only binding for that year.

      That doesn't mean if some emergency comes up or you want to defer, you don't have to attend that school. The advantage to you is that you might get into a school you wouldn't have otherwise, but some top schools don't give much boost to EA.

      But, yes, applying EA where a commitment is required that you will attend over any other school, means you have to go there if you go to school that year.

      Delete
    4. There is a thread on TLS devoted to educating students how to negotiate scholarships.

      Delete
  56. http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=191564&p=6425659#p6425659


    Here is the thread on TLS read the last few posts. I'm
    Not sure what they are doing. I don't think they have done this before.

    Another school is offering a two year program: but they are requiring school during the summer semesters. So how do you think their students will get jobs?

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lawprof: please joint twitter. Think of all the daily stuff you could point out. Just a twitter feed of ridiculous stuff law schools are doing to students based on TLS posts would be an easy addition.

      You can't make some of this stuff up. I mentioned Alabama giving a $25 itunes gift card for applying, I am sure they easily give fee waivers, so kids are making money by applying and Alabama gets to boost selectivity and maybe rope in some people who hadn't thought of them seriously before.

      On the other hand, I read that one of the boston schools is not doing any travel reimbursements for admitted students. Does that sound like a good place to cut money in an era of declining applicants?

      Delete
    2. This is probably the only time I will have anything positive to say about a spam message on this blog, but I second 9:59, LawProf. You should definitely join twitter.

      Delete
  59. When I was a student at HLS in the early 80s, the first year writing course was taught by a 2L!!! Says everything you need to know about how HLS saw practical skills training.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shit, legal "education" is a sick joke.

      Delete
  60. Well hopefully the Howard Law School has improved since the early 1980s.

    One would hope.

    ReplyDelete
  61. The people who learned how to think for themselves never would enroll in law school in the first place. Its a catch-22

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone always knew that law school is a scam..

      Delete
  62. Heeeelp! Some sick animal just took a four pound "Seton Hall Law" in the office lavatory! We have clients coming in later this morning and the janitors are threatening to walk out. The rest of the office is trying to "think like a lawyer" to propose alternative methods to smoosh it down and flush it. I have been appointed interim presidrnt of the Committee to Utilize A Coathanger.

    ReplyDelete
  63. It's a pity that John Houseman was such a fine actor. His portrayal of Professor Kingsfield induced many a young soul to go to law school.

    The reality is that success in law has nothing to do with thinking like a lawyer, being a good writer, or being able to reason well. It has everything to do with marketing oneself and one's practice.

    Some of the worst lawyers I have known are among the most successful. Years ago, I worked for a politician/lawyer who apparently got his law license out of a Cracker Jack box. But hes was able to generate enough work to keep ten lawyers fully employed and overworked, while generating a lot of money for himself and his partners.

    The people who could think like lawyers, write and reason well worked for this clown, and were paid peanuts.

    ReplyDelete

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