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October 29, 2008

Did I Really Hear This Radio Ad By A Law School?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/graphics/2007/06/13/hgillian300.jpgJust today I heard an ad on CBS news radio for Touro Law Center.  I wanted to jump for joy but nearly drove into a tree instead because I was so giddy.  The radio spot (and I'm paraphrasing) said:

All law students get an education.  Our law students are prepared to practice law.  Our students get training in their first year, meet judges, do pro bono work and basically can hit the ground running as competent trained associates and practitioners of law.

Can you imagine my stunned but euphoric state when I heard this law school on the radio promoting their students to potential employers (as it was to employers) not through grades but their practical training?  (And for those USNWR snobs, I don't know or care where this school is ranked.) Whatever the motivation, the school listened to what employers wanted and what their students wanted. For employers, experience and training in school so the students would come out with practical knowledge the employers were requesting. For the students, this in turn helps them find jobs!  (Which also, by the way, prepares them upon graduation for solo practice.)

I was truly impressed.  Maybe, just maybe, not every law school aspires to be the next Yale.  Maybe, just maybe, more positions will open at these law schools for adjuncts who actually practice law.  Maybe, just maybe more law schools will opt out of competing for artificial ranking in U.S. News and World Report.  And maybe, just maybe, as we preach to new lawyers to fashion practices centered around the client those same law schools will fashion educational programs around the needs of their clients, the students.  And maybe, just maybe, the ABA will loosen up or revamp their accreditation process to mandate more skills training so the education makes more sense in the real world.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'm tired and delusional and I didn't really hear the radio ad. (No..I heard it. I really did :-)

(And in case you didn't see, check out our first faculty announcement at Solo Practice University.)

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Comments

Edward Wiest

It sounds good--but I wonder whether the real target of this ad are Biglaw/Midlaw hiring attorneys rather than prospective students (note the use of the words "trained associates").

For schools outside Tier I, the number of placements into Biglaw is as important a marketing metric as the US News rating. Campaigns designed to show that an upstart school's graduates are capable of practicing at the "highest" level on the food chain (such as Touro's and a similar ongoing print campaign by New England School of Law in Boston) may be a tool to sell employers on current graduates, rather than give prospects an idea of what they will actually learn. If I were applying to law school today, I would be more interested in knowing a program viewed success in broader terms than the spawning of "trained associates" for what is in fact a small slice of the profession. Touro's ad may show its institutional heart may be in the right place--but you can't tell from the spiel alone whether graduates will be able to "hit the ground running" other than on a high floor of a downtown tower.

Patti Spencer

So true. I can tell you, having been an adjunct faculty member at a law school, that very often practical experience for the faculty is not sought after and can be perceived as a negative - those in practice are "dirtying their hands in trade" - not being true scholars and academics. This mindset needs to change and I'm glad Touro is getting on board. I have seen some other schools moving in this direction - but its a big ship that turns slowly.

Gabriel Cheong

I went to Northeastern University School of Law. They are (I believe) the only accredited law school in the US that doesn't have grades and engages in a coop program where they require students to get hands-on training for 2 of 3 years of law school. When I started my practice straight out of law school, I feel that I was more prepared than a lot of my counterparts but I still see improvements that can be made. Law schools should start teaching HOW to practice law in addition to the theory of law. Teach students how to draft and file motions; how to try a case from beginning to end; show students forms; teach them how to start and run a law firm.

PerGynt

You have the rest of your life to practice law. I agree that some introduction into practice would be good, but certainly not at the expense of other courses, which seems to be the case around here. The clinic is a popular program, but I would rather work on the side and have Real Estate available every year. I need that.

Susan Cartier Liebel

@Per, I don't think students are sacrificing substantive courses simply because in order to be accredited they must adhere to a certain minimum curriculum.

However, it is the structure of the curriculum and the emphasis on training as a positive rather than a negative is what I found remarkable and long overdue.

Charles Thomas

I am still very upset at the way law schools organize the curriculum, and I agree that more practical education is necessary. The schools need to deemphasize the glamor courses that appeal to Biglaw and start teaching the courses that most working lawyers need. See my post on this issue for more of my thought. http://demonstrativeevidence.blogspot.com/2008/08/why-law-school-sucks-part-i.html

PerGynt

I disagree, Susan. I think that substantive courses are bumped for more fashionable fields of study all the time. And when it happens to be a course that you need for the profession you have chosen, or the employer that plans to hire you, the fact that your substantive education met minimum standards is no consolaton, and no excuse. There is certainly nothing wrong with practical education, but I believe that a balanced legal education will weigh quite a bit heavier on the side of doctrinal studies than the minimum would satisfy. I also believe that if you want to learn to run a law firm that this is best learned in a business or trade school, or on the job. Law schools correctly focus on the instruction of law.

Susan Cartier Liebel

@Per - I respectfully disagree with you. You are assuming balanced legal education should be more heavily doctrinal and therefore must reduce practical.

Most third years are a complete waste of time. If this year of credits is integrated throughout the three years and used for practical training you are not eliminating doctrinal. It is a shift in the structure, not a shift in the quality.

I believe familiarity with the system, the practice, the implementation of what you are learning are vital in order for it to be called a 'real' legal education.

It's like being taught the science of running, understanding how the body works and deals with injury...but one can't be a runner or truly understand the impact of injury on the body until one gets out there and runs!!! To call someone a runner who only knows the experience as an intellectual exercise would be ludicrous. The same with calling one a lawyer who has never had the opportunity to practice what they are learning...and this should be done in law school.

But my ideas and those who design legal education have been known to clash before :-)

Wes

To be totally honest, given the tuition most schools charge students I don't see why they can't offer a broad doctrinal course of study alongside a full range of topical and practical application experiences. Maybe I'm a little too idealistic, who knows? It certainly seems most law schools do not share such progressive views on legal education--perhaps because certain controlling parts of the market demand they hold such views and the schools choose which constituents to please.

But if their customers (their students) legitimately demand certain services, then perhaps they will adapt. Or at least more of them will adapt their curriculum, if not all of them.

PerGynt

Thank you Susan, but your characterization of the entire third year of law school as a waste of time is a bit too cynical to be valid. I am sure many would echo your sentiment only because by that time they were ready to get out and go to work, but pronouncing it to have no value is a bit much. Perhaps if the J.D. were not a Doctorate, the terminal degree in the field of Law, there would be some footing for an argument against a complete intellectual treatment of legal analysis in law school. But it is, and there isn't. This is one of the things that supports our argument against requiring licensed attorneys to acquire additional training to enter certain practice areas. Don't get me wrong. I value practical training as well, but given the choice I would prefer a steady adherence to doctrinal studies. I would prefer having to learn techniques of practice on the job than jumping into a technical field of law without some formal training in school. Being from Back East this might not resonate with you, but if you were attending a small, publicly funded school in the Upper Midwest it would be a daily topic. When every course is not offered every year, there should be limited sprawl in course offerings. It is sad, for example, when a student graduates in December and cannot come back in the Spring semester to take Oil & Gas Law, which is no longer offered every year (and which is kind of a big deal around here). That student didn't get the doctrinal treatment that she wanted to pay for. For those reasons I believe that law schools should place a strong emphasis on doctrinal studies.
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andrew

I loved the doctrinal teachings of my property law profs about the rule in shelly's case and that fox case from 1600. So relevant in paying back 140k student loand on a 35 k salary. Thanks boomer porfessors! Hope your IRAs are doing well!

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