Articles Posted in Experiential Courses

A proposal for a new public law school for Massachusetts, one of only 7 states in the country not to have a public law school, has generated an enormous amount of controversy with many saying that there is a need for a school with a reasonable tuition and others saying there is at this time no need for a school that would add more lawyers to an overcrowded field. Prominent among the opponents, shocking as that may not be, are the local law schools. What is shocking is that I find myself agreeing with the stand of the law schools.Over a week ago, I submnitted what follows as a proposed op-ed to the Boston Globe. I welcome your comments.


What’s missing from the discussion about the need for a new public law school for Massachusetts is any consideration of the failure of the existing law schools to serve not only the educational needs of their students but also the legal needs of the public.

This is for discouraged lawyers (be they unemployed, underemployed or simply dissatisfied) and law students(1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls).  

Today I read this post by The Unemployed Lawyer who is in the Seattle area. Here is the comment I added to her blog.

“I called the Washington State Bar Association and was told that there are 13,000 members from King County. Based on standard US demographics, that would likely mean that about 75%, or 9,750 are in private practice. Julie Salmon at the WSBA said that about 65% (or about 6500) are in firms of 10 or less. Again based on standard US demographics, 50% of the 6500 are sole practitioners, 35% are in firms 2-5 and 15% in firms of 6-10.  THAT MEANS THAT THERE ARE ABOUT 4000 SMALL FIRMS IN KING COUNTY AND MANY OF THEM NEED YOU.

As many of you may know, in July 1992 the ABA’s Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap issued what came to be called the “MacCrate Report”, a withering critique of traditional law schools. In substance, the task force compiled a list of the 10 fundamental skills and the 4 fundamental values needed to be taught in order to be a trained member of the legal profession. It found that law schools teach only 2 of the skills and not well at that.

 While it did not make specific findings about the deficiencies in teaching the values, it suggested more emphasis on them including a recommendation that law schools should be concerned to convey to students that the professional value of the need to “promote justice fairness and morality” is an essential ingredient of the legal profession. .

 At the heart of the report is its “demand” that: law schools affirm that “education in lawyering skills and profesional values is central to the mission of law schools”; they should use effective teaching methods, and they should make students aware of the full range of opportunity for professional development in the rich variety of private practice settings.  

(Note the use of the Roman numerals in the title. While it might be inconsistent with a Russian theme, I thought it might gain the status of the NFL Super Bowl.)

When asked whether a new law school graduate is ready to practice law, most say “No.”

The basis for the problem is that for over one hundred years law schools have seen their mission as teaching students how to think like a lawyer – what might be referred to as a Graduate School Model, uniformly rejecting the medical school approach which prepares students to practice their profession – the Professional School Model. The MacCrate report strongly criticizes law schools for their heavy reliance on the Socratic method and appellate case analysis as somewhat effective in teaching legal reasoning and research but not so for the other eight fundamental skills needed by the practitioner (problem solving, factual investigation, communication, counseling, negotiation, litigation and ADR, organization and management of legal work, recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas.