I think I figured out the formula for writing a law review article that gets picked up by mainstream media outlets. Step 1: vaguely reference how “seismic shifts” in the legal job market call for “new approaches” to educating law students. Step 2: Write same old law review article about your pedagogical pet peeve while also blatantly ignoring the cost of legal education. Step 3: Wait for the Times or the Journal to try to shoe-horn your impractical solutions into a “trend piece” about law schools in the new economy.
A couple of weeks ago, we put a professor on blast for suggesting that law schools eliminate C’s. Today we have a professor who thinks law schools need to spend more time teaching “right brain” skills to “left brain” law students.
Which part of the brain covers “needing to eat” and “getting cold without shelter”? Because if you are not helping kids get jobs, you could at least help them develop some coping mechanisms with poverty…
The WSJ Law Blog has a report on a paper from a Seton Hall law professor, Paula A. Franzese. Franzese argues that instead of debating “theory versus practice,” legal educators should think in terms of left-brain/right-brain issues:
“Much of what we tend to do in the law school classroom is aimed at honing left-brain thinking,” writes Ms. Franzese in a forthcoming essay in Seton Hall Law Review.
The left-brain approach emphasizes “reasoning through precedent.” Students are taught the facts of a case; the strengths and holes in the arguments; how and why a court ruled a certain way; how it was different from what came before.
That kind of training often misses the bigger picture of things — a conceptual, contextual and empathetic understanding that gives the other side of the brain a workout, says Ms. Franzese.
Really guys? A bunch of people are about to graduate to poorly paid jobs, crappy non-legal jobs, or no jobs at all, and you want to debate about “empathetic understanding”? Seton Hall (ranked #36 in the ATL rankings) gets a 65% employment score for full-time, long-term legal jobs for LST. Shouldn’t fixing that be the focus of legal education research?
Of course, Franzese couches her paper in the context of the down market. From her abstract:
We are teaching in challenging times. In response to the economic downturn, fickle client demands and an increasingly global landscape, the practice of law continues to undergo rather seismic shifts…
Against the backdrop of an irrevocably changed legal landscape and law school constituency, our students’ success and relevance will depend on their capacity to wield the traditionally honed “textual” skills as well as the equally important, but underemphasized, “conceptual” skills.
See, she’s saying that teaching right-brain skills will magically increase “student success.” But I really don’t think students at Seton Hall and other schools are not getting jobs in this market because they are “too logical.” I don’t think you can call anybody who decided to take on six figures of debt to graduate into the legal economy of 2013 a paragon of left-brain reasoning.
In fairness to Franzese, she is a great bar review teacher, so her brains theory might really have some legs, especially in terms of conveying information to students. Maybe she should teach “pre-law” kids right-brain skills.
But I don’t think the problem here is that we don’t have enough property professors teaching “conceptually” instead of linearly. I think the problem might be that we have too many property professors and not enough career service officers teaching “the concept of networking.”
Professor Franzese contends that we should move past the old debate of theory v. practice. I say we should move past the old system of law professors being detached from the employment realities their students are facing. If you don’t have a job, I don’t think it much matters whether or not you’re more concerned about the tree of your own disappointment or the forest of limited opportunities.