The Future of Legal Education Reform
As a historical matter, the legal profession obstinately resists change. Its ponderous, backward-looking and self-preservationist characteristics are embodied in the ABA's Ethics 20/20 Commission, which endeavors to protect, preserve, and maintain. But the profession suffers from such thinking. It must look forward; grow more attuned to outside events and trends; and become a player in how change is assimilated into established ways, and how established ways are replaced by more effective ones. Law schools require reform. The academic focus bears little relation to the reality of practice. Graduates must better able to contribute to clients of law firms and to clients of their solo or small firm entrepreneurial endeavors. But the standard form of the bar exam has inhibited reforms in legal education in similar ways. Though justified for its “gatekeeper” function, the bar exam is no longer related to what waits on the other side of the gate—the practice of law. And its strict testing of an array of legal subjects steer students toward those subjects though they would be better served by taking writing or experiential classes that would help them develop as lawyers. The third year of law school should not be eliminated. It should be put to better use. Clinics; skills courses; and sophisticated, practice-setting sensitive simulation courses taught by a mixture of professors and expert practitioners help turn students into lawyers. Given that firms are demanding students with more practical experience, such reform is particularly timely.