The class of 2013 probably won’t return to Above the Law in full force until after Labor Day. But a couple of comments on last night’s LeBron James post alerted us to the fact that some of the new 1Ls are here with us now:
Maybe I’m missing something, but on what basis does the court in Washington, DC exercise jurisdiction over Gloria and LeBron? Shouldn’t their lawyers raise this issue before trying to dismiss the suit as meritless?
An ATL veteran provided the credited response:
Glad to see we have newly-minted 1Ls again. Now sit on my [manly man part] while I rub your international shoe.
Yep, it’s back-to-school time. Now that thousands of 1Ls have committed to going to law school, the question arises: What should these people do to get the most out of their legal education?
We’ve got theories, the legal blogosphere has theories, and we’re sure ATL commenters have theories. Let’s help these 1Ls get prepared for what they’ve gotten themselves into…
Now that you’re in law school, let’s assume you are interested in learning skills that will help you get a job. I know, that is a huge assumption. Many of you gave no thought to getting a job when you decided to come to law school, so why would you start now? (Sorry, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.) But assuming that you want to be employable in three years, what should you be doing?
Whatever you do, you should under no circumstances sit back and expect your law school professors to teach the skills you’ll need as a practicing attorney. It might sound counterintuitive, but trust the people who have been through this before: most law school professors do not consider it their job to prepare you to actually practice law. Consider this post from Brooklyn Law School professor Jason Mazzone on Balkinization (gavel bang: Legal Blog Watch):
As far as I can tell, no law school in the United States co-exists in a university along with an academic law department. If a university has a law school, every professor of law is in the law school.
We should reconsider this model. A different approach is for universities to have both a professional law school and an academic law department.
Under this approach, the professional school would be staffed by instructors whose job is to teach legal skills to lawyers-in-training…
The academic law department would be very different from the professional school. It would be staffed by tenured and tenure-track professors. The principle task of these professors would be research and writing… These professors would be career academics.
Read between the lines, 1Ls. That’s about as close as a law professor is going to come to saying: “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout teachin’ no legal skills.”
Eric Lipman on Legal Blog Watch is particularly unimpressed with Mazzone’s idea:
Hmm. Why might Professor Mazzone long for a world in which tenured faculty can come right out and say that teaching is not their “principle” task? Oh, right. Because he IS ONE OF THEM! Look at all these pesky classes they make him teach. And having to interact with students, having them (foolishly) relying on him to prepare them for a career practicing law? The horror!
The problem of law school professors being terrible when it comes to teaching students about practicing the law is not new. And it is industry-wide. Check out the lead on this WSJ Law Blog post, from this morning:
It’s often struck us as an obvious question: how can law schools provide better real-world training to students when their faculties are made up of article-writing academics?
The answer: they can’t, at least according to a new article to be published in the South Carolina Law Review by adjunct Georgetown law prof and deputy staff director of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Brent Evan Newton.
Wonderful. You new 1Ls are about to embark on a three-year journey, and at the end of it, the professors themselves are promising you you’ll have no practical skills, not if they have anything to say about it.
So what should you do? Well, clearly the time for being a passive participant in your own education is at an end. If you think that you can be ready to function as a good attorney by going to class, preparing for panel, and writing your way on to law review, you’ve got your head up your ass. You said you wanted to go to law school, you said you wanted to learn — now you have to go out and make it happen for yourself. Nobody is going to give you a useful education (even though you’re paying through the nose for it); you have to go out and take it.
Paying more attention in Legal Research and Writing this fall than you do in something “law sounding” like Torts is a good start. When you have the opportunity, you should be taking every clinical program your school has to offer. But really, it’s about attitude and focus. Opportunities will present themselves to learn something about the actual practice of the law. If you go in with your head on a swivel looking for those opportunities, you’ll know to seize them when they present themselves. You’ll develop relationships with adjunct professors who actually have their own practices. If you spend three years looking to force your way into some practical knowledge, maybe you won’t be “worthless” when you graduate.
Or, you can sit back, dutifully learn whatever pet theories your professors have on contract law, and feel all warm and self-satisfied when you get an “A.” It’ll be fun. And three years later, the only thing you’ll be qualified to do is beg a private firm to pay you a salary while they actually teach you how to become a lawyer. Good luck with that.
Two-Track Legal Education Coming to a Law School Near You? [Legal Blog Watch]
Thoughts on Legal Education [Balkinization]
Are Law School Faculties Part of the Problem with Legal Education? [WSJ Law Blog]