The End of Law Schools: Legal Education in the Era of Legal Service Businesses
81 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2014 Last revised: 28 Oct 2015
Date Written: November 24, 2014
Law school as most of us know it is doomed. Law school today – which is but a gloss on Langdell’s Harvard – attempts to prepare students to practice general law in an 1870s world. Students learn a bit about criminal law, a smattering of contracts, a little about torts, a smidgeon of property law, some of the essentials about how cases are moved through a court system. When they emerge, they typically can read and analyze cases, and are told they have learned to “think like a lawyer.” In a way, they have.
But, at least in the typical required curriculum, they haven’t been taught how to negotiate, they haven’t been taught how to build teams or work within organizations, and they haven’t been taught how to work with clients. They don’t learn project management techniques and wouldn’t know how to discuss modern information management technologies. It would be considered déclassé at most schools to suggest that they should learn how to market themselves, either within the organizations they will join or to the general public. They haven’t been shown how to build a balanced life in the law, one where they can achieve professional excellence and yet have a satisfying personal life. In short, they haven’t been taught how to “think like a lawyer” in many of the core areas that define successful lawyers today, and will increasingly define them tomorrow.
But that’s not why law schools are doomed. Law schools are doomed for a more fundamental reason: law schools train only lawyers. Like a zombie, law schools stagger forward reliant on a vision from a past life, ignoring today’s diverse world of legal services and the pervasive changes wrought by the rise of the administrative state. To live, legal education needs to be connected to law as it is experienced today. New institutions should be designed based not on what best serves law students or legal educators, but on what best serves the needs of today’s society.
This article explores why such successor institutions now make sense, and examines in broad strokes what their offerings might look like.
Keywords: law school, legal education, Langdell, case method, compliance, legal services, legal profession, lawyers, lawyering, general counsel
JEL Classification: I21, J44, K40, L84
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation