September 26, 2007

"Do not create a legal writing program, moot court competitions, student-edited law reviews, clinics, or any other co-curricular offerings."

Gordon Smith offers some surprising advice for Erwin Chemerinsky on how to structure the new law school at UC Irvine. The idea is to stress classroom teaching:
Allowing practicing lawyers to drive educational reforms is what got us into this mess. If you feel the need to teach "skills," develop an externship program, which will expose students to real legal problems and forge relationships between your school and potential employers.
That would shake things up. It steps on a lot of toes. But UC Irvine doesn't have toes yet.

24 comments:

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

That would be fine so long as professors stick to their subject material. Focusing on clinicals is going too far in one direction, but using three hours a week ostensibly devoted to, say, torts as a platform to promote critical race theory and redistributive justice goes too far in the other. I never took any clinicals, but benefitted greatly from those professors who took a hard look at how their subject matter worked in practice.

Grunt said...

As I learned in law school it also makes your students non-competitive in the job-market. No moot court competitions means no people on moot court. No journals means no law-review for the CV.

In addition I think, rather than any other education students get in law school the above stress actual skills as opposed to mental masterbation. Now law professors become law professors because they love that stuff, but learning how to write a law review article or argue a case of mediate a dispute is a far more sueful thing than the ethics of IP law (and I'm an IP lawyer and love the semantics involved). Law school should teach you how to think but it should also teach how to apply the thought.

XWL said...

..."is a far more sueful thing"...

Grunt, that has to be one of my favorite typos ever, given the context of this post.

UCI Law School, turning out Sueful Citizens since 2006 . . .

John said...

I think these proposals are great. As a former member of a moot court team, I have to agree that while fun and a great excuse to travel all over the country on the college's dime, these junior Olympic events did nothing to prepare me for the practice of law. Same goes for legal writing and law review. All law review is is checking bluebook citations on articles no one reads. The legal writing classes, at least when I went to school, were way to focused on the blue book. There are about 10 blue book citations that cover about 90% of everything you will ever site in real practice. After you cover those, you waste your time in these courses debating the proper citation for English Rhodesian Colonial edicts in a memorandum format or some other useless issue you would never face in actual practice.

Lastly, I would emphasize not only creating smaller classes but hiring more adjuncts to teach classes oriented towards the practical application of the law. Two of the best classes I took in law school were a pre-trial litigation course taught by an experienced civil litigator in town (it taught actual skills that you needed like how to draft and respond to interrogatories, how and when to file motions along with the intimate details of the entire discovery process) and a bankruptcy course taught by a local practitioner who had about 30 years experience. These classes actually taught me skills and knowledge that used from the first day I started work as an attorney versus arcane academic knowledge. Truthfully, how often does anyone face a personal jurisdiction issue or an Erie question? Very rarely, yet those two issues are a quarter of first year civil procedure.

Daryl said...

Legal writing and moot court were miserable classes. They put a great deal of strain on me and many of my classmates.

They did teach me a completely different writing style, though. And apparently, I'm a hotshot writer now. So I've been told.

B said...

Interesting. Chemerinsky (whom I shook hands with once while visiting USC)will be leading the most examined Law School start-up in history.

He has through this attained Rock Star status, and will need to hire - and probably can more easily now - rock star quality faculty to keep the spotlight favorable.

What a rare opportunity all of the media focus provides: A chance to completely remake the public perception of Law Schools and Lawyers and Law Professors, fraught with the dangerous possibilities of tremendous, falling-star failure.

Now THAT would make an exciting reality show!

former law student said...

Beyond the top ten or so law schools, law school grading curves create winners (the top ten percent) and losers (the other ninety percent). Losers can still recover if their writing is good, so fourth, third, second, or lower first tier schools MUST teach legal writing.

Nobody wants to train a lawyer; lawyers must perform at a professional level when they come out of law school.

I'm surprised a BYU prof needs to be told this.

John said...

"Losers can still recover if their writing is good, so fourth, third, second, or lower first tier schools MUST teach legal writing."

But that assumes that law school legal writing courses actually teach legal writing. I contend that they don't. They teach blue book and an academic writing style that is useless in private practice. No one does footnotes with 25 string sites in legal memoranda. You need to be able to analyze the facts and law and put them into a concise package that someone, a partner or a client, can read in a short time. I can think of nothing further from this than writing law review articles.

former law student said...

We wrote memos and briefs in legal writing; law review writing we learned on our own.

Eli Blake said...

Will UCI ever make it into the top tier of law schools?

Well, what do you think? Their sports teams are called the 'Anteaters.'

Well, I will give them a brownie point for ostensibly not giving a darn what others think of them. But beyond that...

Internet Ronin said...

Publicity! Free publicity! Advice from world-reknowned experts, some of it amazingly outside-of-the-box and throught-provoking (and highly unlikely to have been available otherwise). The kinds of things money alone can't buy. Erwin Chemerinsky is a very lucky man and the odds are that UCI's law school is going to be very lucky as well.

former law student said...

UCI's law school will indeed be lucky. In the O.C. it will be second only to Chapman.

paul a'barge said...

Chermerinsky is a coward.

Only a coward would act as a principal in a law suit against Caterpillar because the company made bulldozers under which Rachel Corrie, the notorious anti-semite and Palestinian sympathizer chose to lay down and commit suicide.

How can people learn how to be effective, ethical and moral lawyers from a moral zero like Erwin Chermerinsky? Or is this a rhetorical question?

So, now we have Chermerinsky as a law school dean and Lynn Stewart teaching a legal ethics class at Hofstra.

Do you folks have any idea just how poorly people think of lawyers when they see cases like this, where legitimate law schools bless moral monsters?

Internet Ronin said...

Passing thought: If this keeps up, the Regents are going to have to give Michael V. Drake a raise instead of look for a way to quietly dump him.

Methadras said...

How about actually injecting common sense in the teaching of would be lawyers. Maybe we could start to transform the legal profession by beginning a reform of using plain english language law instead of legalese?

LutherM said...

The recommendations somehow remind me of Evening School @ U. Md. - good classroom instruction, scant ability to participate in clinics, etc. - but it took us four years.
Looking back, and it was a long time ago, it was better for me to have fine, bright teachers - Peter Quint for Constitutional Law, Bill Reynolds for several courses - rather than spending time in various clinics. LAW REVIEW does look good on a record - but a JD with Honors will suffice.
(Why Evening School ? Some people have to work, support a family, etc.)

Jeff with one 'f' said...

But DO create a welcome setting for racially segregated Law Student Associations!

P. D. "Bo" Steele said...

Make the students wear togas. That would shake things up.

Bissage said...

Since we all seem to be tossing off suggestions on how to improve legal education, how about forcing students to watch this about, oh I
don’t know, maybe a dozen times?

So far, I’m up to three.

Damn!

Daryl said...

But that assumes that law school legal writing courses actually teach legal writing. I contend that they don't. They teach blue book and an academic writing style that is useless in private practice.

I dunno, we had real, practicing lawyers teaching our writing classes. Sure, we learned the bloob ook, but we also learned how to write stuff the court is going to want to read:

use plain English, facts then law, brief important cases in your brief--even if it's a very brief explanation of what the case is ("X is a case about Y. This is a case about Z."), never lie, never mislead, cite the correct page numbers, put the correct & complete cites in your draft as you type it, number your sections correctly & consistently, don't use sarcasm, don't use lots of CRAZY punctuation!!!!, spell your words rite, be respectful to everyone . . .

It's just a lot of little rules that make sense and become second nature very quickly. Learning it is rough but once you get the hang of it it's easy.

The organization is also important; how you group the facts and the law matters. That's harder to explain, I think you just need to get a feel for it.

Mark said...

This seems like a really bad idea. The research, videotaped practices, presentation, and working with a partner that moot court required really added opened my eyes up. I was also forced to take a point of view (prosecution) that I otherwise wouldn't have. And having law school outsiders comment to you on your brief and presentation brings a new perspective. Finally, juggling moot court and the law review with class work develops good multitasking skills.

I assume "externship" means clerking. If everybody were forced to do it, maybe, but clerking just means a lot of time in the firm's crummy library and at the xerox machine. You do that in the summer break.

hdhouse said...

paul a'barge said...
"So, now we have Chermerinsky as a law school dean and Lynn Stewart teaching a legal ethics class at Hofstra."

and now we have Paul with his typical lack of fact checking....after calling Chermerinsky a "coward" he states Steward is teaching a legal ethics class at Hofstra. WRONG Paul. She is appearing at a conference on Lawyering on the Edge...20 minute presentation and 20 minute questions.

Your little jackboots too tight?

Trooper York said...

"I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes."
-Senior basketball player at the University of Pittsburgh

The Exalted said...

those are all great suggestions -- for ensuring UCI law is 5th tier