Legal Education

  • July 28, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Jennifer Steinhauer at The New York Times writes about bipartisan congressional efforts to reform the outdated mandatory sentencing laws that have left our federal prisons overcrowded.

    In The National Law Journal, Karen Sloan reports on a new “low bono” program in Baltimore, quoting Dean Robert Weich of the University of Baltimore School of Law who argues that this program will benefit students, schools and the profession alike.

    Christian Parenti argues in Jacobin that the public sector is to blame for the buildup of a modern police state that has tones of an oppressive, white supremacist past. 

  • May 2, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Reuben A. Guttman, Director, Grant & Eisenhofer; Member, ACS Board of Directors
    * This post originally appeared on The Global Legal Post.
    In the United States, law school deans have now had more than a few weeks to digest the latest rankings by US News and World Report.
    Setting aside whatever specific criteria US News employs to rank law schools, by any account the true quality of a law school is a function of only two variables: the students who attend the school and the faculty that does the teaching.
    As law schools strive to climb the US News ranks, much attention is given to enrolling students with high college grade point averages and high Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores. These are two of the key criteria that US News factors in its ratings. Curiously, diversity is not one of those criteria, and while employment is considered a factor, the specific type of employment is not a consideration in the rankings.
    Do these criteria yield those who will have the most potential for being great lawyers, judges, legislators or scholars? Who knows? They are simply the criteria that US News analyzes when it ranks law schools. By this standard, a student with a near-perfect grade point average who never took a single math or science course would be favored for admission over a chemical engineering major with a B or B plus average. Or the criteria might favor a student with a near-perfect undergraduate grade point average who never learned to write.
    The larger point is that a third party—a publication whose interest is in generating advertising revenue and not in the first instance producing great legal minds—is influencing who will be the next generation of judges, advocates for those who cannot advocate for themselves, and counsel who advise multinationals on regulatory compliance. Really? A third party is affecting the choice of individuals who will determine how our world will be governed and compliance enforced.
  • October 7, 2013
    Guest Post
    American legal education is the best in the world, but it needs to evolve to match up with the rapid changes that are taking place in the legal profession.
    As the cost of law school has skyrocketed, student debt has grown to unsustainable levels for many graduates. The recession, combined with structural changes in the practice of law, has diminished job opportunities and salaries. Law school applications are decreasing by record numbers.
    At the same time, many law schools have not prioritized teaching law students what they actually will do when they become lawyers. Although some schools have made significant strides in providing training in legal clinics and other hands-on settings, law firms still take on most of the crucial role of teaching young associates the craft and customs of practicing law. And clients have footed the bill, understanding that this is how young lawyers learn. But clients and employers are no longer as willing as they once were to pay for associate training.
    In response to these changes, fingers have been pointed: at law schools, at law professors, at law students, at the student loan industry and at the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The finger-pointing has not moved us closer to a solution.
    ABA leadership commissioned a Task Force on the Future of Legal Education last year to determine how law schools, the ABA and other stakeholders can address issues concerning the economics and delivery of legal education. The panel has been soliciting views in the widest way possible to identify how the bench, the bar and the legal education community can work together to provide meaningful education and careers for law students and graduates.
  • December 8, 2011
    Practical Advice
    Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation
    A Context and Practice Casebook
    Sarah E. Ricks and Evelyn M. Tenenbaum

    By Sarah Ricks, a clinical professor of law at Rutgers School of Law and co-director of the Pro Bono Research Project.

    The New York Times recently declared, “American legal education is in crisis.” One cause, the editorial argued, is legal education’s traditional preference for theory over practice: “In 2007, a report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching explained that law schools have contributed heavily to this crisis by giving ‘only casual attention to teaching students how to use legal thinking in the complexity of actual law practice.’” Widely publicized calls to reform legal education have come from Best Practices; its blog; and other blogs, e.g., "Room for Debate – The Case Against Law School."

    One challenge for law teachers who want to integrate practical skills into doctrinal teaching is finding appropriate teaching materials.

    Evelyn Tenenbaum and I collaborated on a casebook responding to the call for a more practical approach to teaching law. Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation: A Context and Practice Casebook focuses on practical materials to teach the constitutional and statutory doctrines necessary to litigate constitutional claims arising under the 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendments, under the 1st Amendment in the prison context, and the 11th Amendment defense.

  • April 27, 2010
    Education Policy

    If you think that law students are getting younger all the time, you may be right. New Hampshire legislators approved creation of a new, two-year college for students eager to attend law school.

    Pending approval from Gov. John Lynch, the American College of History and Legal Studies (ACHLS) would enroll students for two years and grant only one degree: a bachelor's in history and legal studies. Graduates of ACHLS with high grades would be guaranteed admission to the independent Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Those most anxious to put law school behind them could even combine their second and final year at ACHLS with their first year at law school, if their grades meet certain standards.

    The Concord Monitor reports:

    ACHLS describes itself as the only college in the United States to focus solely on history. [The dean of Massachusetts School of Law at Andover and founder of ACHLS Lawrence] Velvel had planned to establish it in Massachusetts but found state law did not allow a college that offers only junior and senior years. He found no such difficulties in New Hampshire, where the recent legislation would allow the college to grant degrees. The school plans to open in rented space in a Salem office building.