Instead of a curriculum taught largely through professors’ grilling of students about appellate cases, some schools are offering more apprentice-style learning in legal clinics and more courses that train students for their multiple future roles as advocates and counselors, negotiators and deal-shapers, and problem-solvers.Of course, law school clinics have been around for decades, but they don't overwhelm the coursework. If they did, law school would become much more expensive for students. And yet it's apprentice-style learning! If learning law doesn't involve deep study of difficult materials, why should you have to go to law school at all? If apprentice work is best, why not have apprenticeships?
The case method has been the foundation of legal education for 140 years. Its premise was that students would learn legal reasoning by studying appellate rulings. That approach treated law as a form of science and as a source of truth.So... forget science and truth. Law is a means to an end. Got that? Can you understand why the NYT thinks that you, the public, would have more confidence in lawyers if you would only see them as deal-shapers and problem solvers who only use law because it's a means to an end? Would you look upon the law with newfound admiration if you thought that only unsophisticated people imagine that law has something to do with reasoning from principle and the accurate interpretation of texts?
That vision was dated by the 1920s. It was a relic by the 1960s. Law is now regarded as a means rather than an end, a tool for solving problems. In reforming themselves, law schools have the chance to help reinvigorate the legal profession and rebuild public confidence in what lawyers can provide.
By the way, if classroom teaching is suspect these days, and apprentice-style learning is better, why are we trapping all our youngsters in buildings with desks and books and blackboards and teachers? Why not devote half the school day to letting the students work cleaning the buildings and cooking and serving the meals? Newt Gingrich said it last week:
Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising.It's a clinic. Students learn the ways of real-life practical work. Of course, Newt's idea is different from the law school clinic, because law students pay tuition for the benefit of learning through practice, while Newt's teenage janitors would get paid.