Articles Posted in Law School Mission


After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1963, I worked for a large law firm, served in the US Army JAG and worked in an insurance company. After two years as an associate for a sole practitioner, I founded two small law firms representing individuals and community groups and became one of the first lawyers in the country to offer divorce mediation. Concerned about the issue of the unmet legal needs of the public, I served on the boards of legal services programs, created referral programs for the Massachusetts Bar Association and the National Lawyers Guild, started an association of legal clinics, and served as president of a family mediation association.

In 1983 I returned to Harvard Law School as its public interest adviser. On August 9, 1989, my position was eliminated by a recently appointed dean of that law school. I have reprinted below some material related to the elimination of that position.

Journalists of the legal media could be a force in correcting decades of law school misplacement.

I just read the most recent of the plethora of articles focusing on placement offices and what they are doing for law students during this unique “challenging” “chill” inducing situation where more and more large law firms are withdrawing from on-campus interviewing and not hiring students for summer and permanent positions.

I quickly recognized thirteen issues NOT considered in this article (to a great extent applicable to another such article.)

 For information on the genesis of these posts and on who “Debra” is, click here and read the intro to “Debra and Ron Post 1.

Ron: When I began to work as the public interest adviser at Harvard Law School in 1983, I knew that there were thousands of capable lawyers who represented those truly needing legal services, what we referred to as the underrepresented in society. Students had no way of knowing that this was the case. What I did was to create a new public interest category “private public interest law firms”, contacted hundreds of such lawyers across the country, and list them in the Public Interest Directory I edited in 1986.Quite soon, Harvard law School students were choosing summer positions with them and eventually taking permanent positions.

The reason so many law students at selective law schools take positions with BigLaw is not that it is a more satisfying option for them. It is simply that BigLaw has convinced the law schools to take your position that it is just too difficult to find better placements for their students (of course it helps that the recruiters for BigLaw wine and dine and provide great resorts for lovely social events for law school career planning staff at the annual NALP conferences).

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.  

“A review of catalogs and entries in the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools, published by the Law School Admission Council in cooperation with the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools, provides evidence that schools are not doing a good job distinguishing themselves from one another. Many appear to be all things to all people.” The MacCrate Report

Maybe that’s because, for the most part, law schools are doing the same thing (they are certainly not all things). Law schools teach you how to think like the proverbial lawyer. There are no majors. When you leave, you seek a position somewhere “in the law” and begin to learn what to do.

What I propose is that law schools promote something unique; i.e, a specialty, an area of concentration or an approach, something that will make the law school stand out and appeal to many considering law school and a career in the law. Think PierceLaw’s IP reputation and Vermont’s environmental niche.

In a previous post requesting that I be appointed law school industry czar, I noted that recent graduates had testified about

“how their experience in law school had destroyed their self-confidence, their self-esteem and their sense of self-worth”

That statement is based on my personal twenty-five years experience advising law students and lawyers. When asked what it is that I do, I always say that one of the most significant aspects of my advising is helping clients rebuild or gain self-confidence and self-esteem. I am not a therapist. I have NO training in that field. What I do know is that my clients are basically intelligent creative thoughtful individuals. What I also know is what has caused them to feel the way they do – attending law school, especially the highly selective ones.

Jordan Furlong has posted an article in his blog entitled “The Crossed Purposes of Legal Education” about the law schools responsibility for the gap between what prospective law students imagine about the profession and the reality they find when they enter the legal workforce.

He refers to an article in Forbes describing “the great college hoax” drawing a comparison between professional schools and subprime mortgage hawkers inclluding misguided easy-money policies, half-truths exaggerating the value of its product adding “A few law schools deliberately obfuscate the rewards of a legal career, but too many more finesse or downplay the reality of the debt versus the earning power of a law degree.” 

He goes on to add

Below are excerpts from a Memorandum which I sent last year to the Professor at Stanford Law School who was heading up the search committee for an Executive Director for its Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest.


(O)ver the last 44 years since I graduated law school in 1963, I have continued to be concerned about whom graduating law students represent. As critical social issues continued to come to the attention of the public (poverty, health, housing, education, the environment, as well as the rights or women, children, minorities and gays), as many as 95% of those graduating from law schools, especially the highly selective ones, took positions in the largest law firms representing the largest corporations and the wealthiest 1% of our citizens.

As you may have read, I am campaigning to be appointed Law School Industry Czar (“LSI Czar”) based on the platform that law schools have failed students, graduates/lawyers and the public. To allow time for public input, I am publishing now the Ukases (edicts of the Czars) I expect to promulgate upon taking the position.

For future reference there will be frequent references to my two bibles: the first is Legal Education and Professional Development – An Educational Continuum – The Report of The Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap published by the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in 1992 (“MacCrate Report”).

The second was also published in 1992 and is titled 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. (“MSL Report”).