P.S. Majors to J.D. Jobs - How Can We Help You?: Assessing the Future of the Political Science Curriculum Vis-a-Vis the Future of Legal Education Through an Interdisciplinary Continuum
56 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2013
With the 2007-08 economic recession having dramatic effects on all employment sectors, including law, law schools are feeling the pressure from employers to make their graduates more “practice ready.” Problems arise when the traditional model of legal education (and its theoretical based Socratic engagement) does not keep pace fast enough with demands of these employers. As law schools around the country slowly attempt to revitalize curricula to reflect the more technical realities of new associate practice, the question becomes where does the still-important study of the theory of law go? Can the economic pressures from employers on institutions have a legitimate impact on first year law school education, where the seeds of legal analytical thinking are considered to be sown? If so and that theoretical foundation must give away to more practice-oriented pedagogy, where does that leave the still-important attribute of being able to “think like a lawyer”? As Oliver Wendell Holmes said at the end of the nineteenth century, law is not only the study of logic, but also that of “societal advantages,” history and economics; it is interdisciplinary. If the real push by the market downward on law schools is felt to shift to a more technical-based training model, does that mean that undergraduate majors will then derivatively be obliged to teach in the traditional model of the law school first year? What would be the relationship between these two institutions then? Will the three-year J.D. model remain in place or will undergraduate programs, particularly in political science, give way to a new breed of “pre-law” student? More importantly, what would these things do to the traditional political science curriculum as an antecedent for law school?
This work will first briefly examine the history and current status of both the traditional political science major as a “pre-law” vehicle as well as the history of the traditional model of legal education. Then it will document the movement afoot in legal education to produce more “practice ready” J.D. graduates that have attempted to respond to a dramatic market downward shift in employment activity for J.D. graduates, with the employment rate of the class of 2011 being the lowest since 1994. It will then turn to a study of current relationships between actors involved in legal education and those in undergraduate political science education and how the latter has continuously produced highly capable and competitive participants in the former. Lastly, it will propose curricular modifications in undergraduate political science majors based on the movements occurring in law school curricula. Other proposals include a legal research component to existing research methods courses or as a stand-alone course, honors school offerings, introducing the Socratic method into the undergraduate political science classroom and experiential education curricular decisions for political science majors interested in law school.
Keywords: legal education, political science, curriculum, interdisciplinarity, reforms, law school, liberal arts, critical thinking, education theory, neuroscience, case method, recession, Langdellian method, Socratic method, flipping
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