April 16, 2011
ON LEGAL EDUCATION
Steve Sheppard, ed., The History of Legal Education in the United States: Commentaries and Primary Sources, Volumes I and II (Pasadena, CA, & Hackensack, NJ: Salem Press, 1999) (From Steve Sheppard, "Introduction: Why Study the History of Law Schools?": "In the last three decades of the [twentieth] century the role of legal education in the academic marketplace has reverted to something more like the university law school experience of the early nineteenth century, in which young students used the law as a finishing school and not necessarily as a preparation for an active practice of law. While an overwhelming percentage of law school graduates take licenses as lawyers, increasingly lawyers have moved from practice to alternative careers in publishing, arts, agriculture, management, and a host of other spheres. Thus while the preparation of new lawyers remains a defining element of legal education, law schools also deliberately provide an educational base that is not aimed toward the active practice of law but toward a particular intellectual experience and a concomitant cultural identity. That such an intellectual exposure is needed as graduate experience is in part the product pf another change, the decline of undergraduate education." "The American undergraduate at the close of the twentieth century, particularly in arts subjects, has been granted that most horrible of desires, unqualified empowerment. As universities have competed for students to support institutions defined by growth, students have been given a choice to spend their collegiate years either in the long hours studying alone in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding or in the short hours of searching with others for sexual experimentation and developed social standing. Colleges that provide profitable athletic spectacles while trimming reading lists and essay exams are not simply more attractive; they are also the more cost-efficient. As a result, most students entering legal education at the close of the century are less likely than their predecessors to know the details of government and history, are less likely to have developed ability to discern the meaning of text and context in a writing, and are far less likely to have a careful technique of prose writing and analytical argument. The product of a television-based, consumer society, the majority of the students have come to expect that education should be entertaining, risk-free, and easily accomplished in twenty-minute segments. The product of a generation that challenges authority of all manners, they are unused to investing any source of information with authority and so have difficulty reconciling conflicts among information. On the other hand, these students are more technically adept, capable of using computers and computer networks with a facility that astonishes their elders, and more egalitarian." Id. at 1-4, 2-3. From, Thomas M. Cooley, "Hints to Young Lawyers": "Systematic reading is essential to a steady advance in the law; and what is true of the student days, is true also of the lawyer's business life. The field upon which you enter now is so broad that if you would explore it all you must keep steadily and systematically employed, and if you fail in this, you will not only fail to become thorough and complete in legal attainments, but even when you make examinations with reference to particular cases, you will never be sure that you have not overlooked important principles which will have a controlling influence." "If I had time I might enlarge upon this point perhaps with usefulness, as not only a matter of duty, but of sound policy also. Of poor lawyers our country is full, but the number of those who are really able is comparatively small. He who enters the lower class finds always a sharp and persistent competition, not usually of the most honorable character; he who enters the higher will in any part of the land find a large field ready for his occupation, in which there will be employment at once honorable, lucrative and satisfactory. When one inquires whether there is room for more lawyers, the first point to be determined is the grade of the lawyer; there is always room for a good lawyer, while poor lawyers, who spend their time mainly in places of public resort, and neglect altogether anything like steady legal discipline, are superabundant everywhere." Id. at 3-87-397, 388-389. A bit dry at times, but those seriously interested in the institution of legal education should read this book.).