But Caron's excerpts don't contain what I think would be the real sticking point for law schools. Let me do a different excerpt, with boldface added. From Georgetown lawprof Philip G. Shrag:
Small seminars to teach research and writing would vanish. Education in ethics would be threatened. Clinical education, which best prepares students for the real practice of law, is expensive because of its hands-on approach. It is taught mainly in the third year, and it might be the first to go.After decades of building up clinical education in law schools, this 2-year approach looks like a devious plan to scrap them. But a second letter, from Hastings lawprof Marsha N. Cohen, makes it look completely different:
President Obama seems to have endorsed this week the lawyer training model being implemented by our new national nonprofit, Lawyers for America.... Fellows spend their third year at a legal nonprofit or government agency. After graduation and the bar exam, they return to the same workplace for a year, earning a fellowship stipend, the funds for which are provided by the agency, which benefits from low-cost fellows.In this vision, there really is a third year — off site — and the clinical teachers are more numerous and more important than ever. It's the teachers of seminars and specialized courses who are weeded from the faculty.
This program is not cost-free for law schools. Clinical education is far more costly to provide than classroom instruction. Without the supervision that clinical faculty provide, the practical training year could well be like many internships: young people providing cheap labor, without receiving significant instructional value in return.
And how do you like everyone getting their start in "a legal nonprofit or government agency," where they spend 2 years working for nothing? The effort to cut law school back to 2 years ends up inflating it to 4!
Here's a flashback to 1982 — 6 years before Barack Obama became a Harvard law student. Harvard Law School — facing ''malaise'' and presser from "the school's self-described 'left,' which says the current curriculum buttresses the nation's political status quo" — issued a report that diminished the value of studying court opinions:
The Michelman committee... recommended expanded practical, or ''clinical,'' training for students, both as a teaching device and as an incentive for public service work.Think about the history and politics of these proposed changes.
Clinical training involves practice on real or simulated cases, such as work in a legal services clinic for the poor or through dramatizations before video cameras. At elite schools like Harvard, such ''practical'' training has historically been considered undignified, better left to the first years of practice.
''It is in the field under supervision, or in the life-sized simulation, that a student seemed likeliest to gain an enduring perception of the particular ways in which the conduct of lawyers may help make 'the law in action' a rather different thing from the 'law in the books,' '' the committee said....
One left-wing committee member, Duncan Kennedy, labeled the committee's findings ''homilies'' and charged in a written dissent that it failed to present ''a trenchant analysis of the educational problems of Harvard Law School and the program of reform designed to solve those problems.''
He proposed his own curriculum, including courses in case and rule ''manipulation,'' along with a mandatory two-month internship in a legal services office, and urged the school to discontinue its ''current policy of indoctrinating on the sly."...
''We are an academic institution, and it's not clear that clinical training is something we do well,'' said Prof. Charles Fried. E. Clinton Bamberger, a staff attorney at a legal services program sponsored jointly by Harvard and Boston University Law Schools, questioned the sincerity of Harvard's commitment to clinical education as legal aid. ''Harvard as an institution does not have the courage to make an explicit commitment to helping the disadvantaged through the law, because it is captured by the system,'' he said.
What was Obama doing back when that report came out? Not community organizing. That lay ahead. He was in New York City, studying political science and international relations at Columbia University.