Since in so much I have written I have taken quotes from the ABA’s MacCrate Report and one issued by the Mass School of Law, both in 1992, I decided to publish (in three parts) a handout I distributed at a panel I moderated for the National Lawyers Guild in 1993 which is primarily quotes from both.
Aspects of the Traditional Law School Experience Which Inhibit or Divert Law Students From Careers Serving the Legal Needs of the Public.
Law school will give new meaning to the word challenge. From the law school you attend, to your class rank, to your extra-curricular activities, to your work experience, everything and everyone will seem to conspire to stand between you and the job you want.” Munneke p. 78
(T)he problems besetting academia – problems such as excess costs, lack of sufficient work by professors, exclusive concentration by professors on research with resulting inattention to teaching and administrative tasks, an ever increasing spiral of tuition resulting from the foregoing phenomena, and failure by law, engineering and business schools to teach students the skills they need in the professions they have been trained for. MSL p. 459
1. THE CURRICULUM FAILS TO TEACH STUDENTS MANY OF THE SKILLS NEEDED TO BE A COMPETENT LAWYER – PROBLEM SOLVING, FACTUAL INVESTIGATION, COMMUNICATION, COUNSELING, NEGOTIATION, MANAGING LEGAL WORK EFFECTIVELY AND RESOLVING ETHICAL DILEMMAS
Ask any practicing lawyer: “Is a new law school graduate ready to practice law?” The answer will invariably be an emphatic “No!” Most of us readily accept the seeming inconsistency between the notion that when we take the bar examination, we know more law than we have ever known before or will know again, and that we know frightfully little about being a lawyer. Munneke p. 20
If professional competence is the goal, the fact is troubling that so many young lawyers are seen as lacking the required skills and values at the time the lawyer assumes full responsibility for handling a clients legal affairs. Much remains to be done to improve the preparation of new lawyers for practice…MacCrate p. 266
2. THE TEACHING METHOD PROVIDES TOO FEW SUPERVISED CLINICAL EXPERIENCES AND TOO FEW SIMULATION AND ROLE PLAYING, COMPUTER-ASSISTED LEARNING, PLANNING AND WRITING EXERCISES.
…If the students intend to become experts in, say, contract law, they will likely be taught contracts by a professor who has üever sat across from a living client, who has never considered the grave, long-lasting personal and social consequences of the agreement he is to write. Generally the students will never draft a contract themselves, or likely ever see one in law school. … The professors were not training young attorneys to represent people. They were teaching their students only what they themselves knew. The art of studying law.” MSL p. 146 quoting trial lawyer Gerry Spence
Law professors .,..could not impart the professional techniques needed at the bar and the mores and habits of the profession … (or) be the instruments for students’ necessary socialization to the profession,…(and) results ..in less capable teaching even in “academic subjects” For the best theoretical instruction, as is well known to students of pedagogy and learning theory, is instruction which illustrates the theoretical by the practical. MSL p. 132
“What would we say of a medical school where students were taught surgery solely from the printed page? No one, if he could do otherwise, would teach the art of playing golf by having the teacher talk about golf to the Prospective player and having the latter read a book relating to the subject.” MSL p. 166 quoting Judge Prank
(R)elatively few law students have exposure to the full range of professional skills offerings. The Task force found that the majority of graduating law students had four or fewer skills experiences” (simulated skills, clinics, externships or others) while in law school. When classes of first year “Introduction to Lawyering’…. legal writing and research…trial advocacy.., and moot court were removed from the list, the majority of graduating students had only one., or no… additional exposures to professions skills instruction …professional skills training occupies only nine (9%) percent of the total instructional time available to law schools. MacCrate p. 240
3. STUDENTS LACKING KNOWLEDGE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND THE SKILLS NECESSARY TO PRACTICE COMPETENTLY CANNOT MAKE AN INFORMED CAREER DECISION AND DEVELOP A HIGHLY IMPAIRED SENSE OF SELF.WORTH.
The statement, “You are unique,” may not strike you as particularly profound … Your many accomplishments set you apart from the crowd. Unfortunately, many law students lose their confidence in their own uniqueness as soon as they begin to look for a job. They act like they are fungible. They talk like they have no special skills. Part of the reason lies in the law school experience itself:,., During your first year, you learn that you are almost never right. By your senior year, you discover that despite years of studying theory and black letter law, you know little about practicing law..,.Munneke p. 133
Alan Stone, a psychiatrist (and former head of the American Psychiatric Association) who is on the faculty of the Harvard Law School. “The faculty make themselves relatively inaccessible to students in order to gain time to do their own highly theoretical work” ..The crucial human attribute which the law school ignores, and indeed in many cases defeats” says Stone, “is the student’s sense of self esteem” The lack of concern for such esteem …results in “ever increasing disengagement from the formal educational process (and) ..,is to be contrasted with the experience of the medical students, who, during his last two years, is given increasing professional responsibility in the clinic and ward.” MSL p. 154
The Deeply Unsatisfactory Nature of Legal Education Today – A Self Study Report on the Problems of Legal Education and on the Steps The Massachusetts School of Law Has Taken to Overcome Them, Massachusetts School of Law, 1992 (MSL)
Munneke, Gary; The Legal Career Guide: From Law Student to Lawyer, American Bar Association Career Series, 1992 (Munneke)
Legal Education and Professional Development – An Educational Continuum – Report of the Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap. The American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, 1992, “The MacCrate Report” (MacCrate)
Edwards, Harry T; The Growing Disjunction Between Legal Education and The Legal Profession. 91 Michigan Law Review 8478, Oct 1992 (Edwards)