The Art and Science of Law

Disrupting Legal Education

Why is it so hard for legal education to adapt to the changing market needs?

In its 1992 “MacCrate Report” (a/k/a “Statement of Fundamental Lawyering Skills and Professional Values”) the ABA
Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap encouraged law schools to develop “courses of instruction and materials designed to teach entry-level lawyers the skills and values they need in order to represent clients.” 

In other words, Property courses should have less on the criteria for ownership of dead 18th century English foxes, and more on the practical vagaries of perfecting a real property title in 21st century Florida . . . just to use one of the more painful periods in our own legal education as an example.

1992, though, folks . . . that was in the year one thousand nine hundred and ninety-two.

20+ years later, it’s sad to say not a lot of progress has been made. Property will still not prepare you to make a valuable contribution in a real estate closing.  Civil Procedure is still utterly useless when it comes to the procedures attendant to actually conducting civil litigation.  Contracts still leaves students totally unprepared to draft, even the most basic, contract.

In spite of all this, there is a disconnect between the quality of the supply (i.e., newly minted JDs), and the perilous nature of the demand (i.e., clients increasing reluctance to pay for said JDs).  But, what are the obstacles to change?

We think one barrier is reputational risk.  The truth is that even leading law school graduates are not all snapping up Big Law associates positions—and, those that do, are not all keeping them.  The temporary attorney ranks are chock-a-block with top 20 law school grads.  But, in order for the leading law schools to really disrupt the prevailing pedagogical model, they would have to acknowledge this fact.  After all, why would you fix something unless it’s broken?