Changing what Law Schools Practice and Law Firms Teach
Temple Law School Dean Joanne Epps has an interesting piece in the National Law Journal entitled A Tipping Point for Law Schools? Dean Epps argues that the economic crisis gives law schools and law firms an opportunity to re-think the way we educate law students. The old bargain between the profession where law schools taught “the law” and law firms taught skills has broken down.
Of course, that was only true for the largest firms. Law schools that sent their graduates into small firms, state agencies, and solo practice have always embraced a mission to teach legal theory AND to prepare their graduates to practice law. That’s why my law school – UALR William H. Bowen School of Law – has required an upper level skills course since 1974. The ABA only mandated a skills requirement in 2006. The recession and the reform movement in legal education have exposed the divide between the law school “haves” and the rest of us. In truth, the “haves” are now experiencing what the rest of us have always known and are now embracing what the rest of us have always done.
In fairness, Dean Epps’ school – Temple – has been at the forefront of clinical legal education. I’m not picking on her. In fact, she gets it about right: that there is no single template for legal education in the 21st Century and that the future will be marked by flexibility and collaboration. As she says:
“I [don't] expect that change will come from one law school or even a handful of law firms. Rather, I think it is imperative that a dialogue get under way that harnesses our collective experiences from across the spectrum of the industry to think strategically about the role legal education should play during the next 20 to 50 years.”