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Friday, June 22, 2012

The People's Law School

Original_Volkswagen_Beetle_AdToday in 1934, the Reich Association of the German Automobile Industry commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to design a "people's car" that would be marketed to the masses, and that would serve as a competitive alternative to models that were only accessible to a fortunate few. Porsche's design later became the Volkswagen Beetle. If you had to design a model for a "people's law school," what would it contain, and how would it compare to schools that already exist?

Posted by Kelly Anders on June 22, 2012 at 12:16 PM in Culture, Current Affairs, Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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I don’t have the time to sketch a model but, off the top-of-my head, here’s a list of inspirational items for such a project:

Larry Lessig’s Commencement Address to the John Marshall Law School, an excerpt and link for which is here: http://www.legalethicsforum.com/blog/2012/06/larry-lessigs-commencement-address-to-the-john-marshall-law-school.html

The People’s Electric Law School (h/t George Conk): http://law.newark.rutgers.edu/public-service/people-s-electric-law-school

The Innocence Project: http://www.innocenceproject.org/

Therapeutic Jurisprudence (David Wexler and the late Bruce Winick)

Austin Sarat and Stuart Scheingold, eds. Cause Lawyering: Political Commitments and Professional Responsibilities (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

Training in restorative justice: http://www.restorativejustice.org/

An understanding of the history of the National Lawyers Guild.

Deep familiarity with “legal realism,” Critical Legal Studies, and Marxist approaches to the law.

A Gandhian or karma-yoga-like model of professional responsibility and social service.

An acquaintance with the literature on moral and intellectual responsibility.

An intimate knowledge of the ongoing “access to justice” problems (Deborah Rhode) in our society, especially “the right to effective counsel.”

A profound understanding of the class- and race-based distortions of the criminal justice system.

A profound grasp of the historical, moral, and legal importance of habeas corpus.

An appreciation (for international criminal law) of the meaning of “victor’s justice.”


Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Jun 22, 2012 4:38:53 PM

My first-year curriculum would look much like the current one, except that I would include problem solving and drafting exercises in doctrinal courses. In addition, I think that it is especially important that first-year students become fluent in synthesizing cases and dealing with ambiguity. My second year would combine skills courses and doctrinal courses, with the doctrinal courses again having problem-solving and/or drafting elements. My third year would look like the one at Washington and Lee or the General Practice Program at Vermont Law School. I would also integrate profesionalism and ethics in every class. Finally, we need to have smaller classes so that students can receive more individual attention.

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Jun 22, 2012 6:32:22 PM

During my 50+ years of law practice, I have had concerns with the adversarial system and the impact ethically on lawyers (as well as society) that may clash with their roles as officers of the court. In efforts to get as close to the line between right and wrong, often that line is crossed. Yes, there are gray areas, but their existence is too easy to rationalize. The economics of "winning" in this system may not serve fairness and justice well. So I go along with Scott's "I would also integrate profesionalism and ethics in every class." Alas, with the high costs of a legal education and the burdens of student loans, the economics of "winning" may continue. And the "Beetle" model may lead to hump-back lawyers and commodification of the law.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Jun 23, 2012 6:06:54 AM

I'd set up my "people's" law school to have admissions based on a standardized test that has been proven to a) not be an indicator or bar passage and b) biased against minorities and economically disadvantaged.

Posted by: The Establishment | Jun 23, 2012 7:15:45 AM

It should cost no more than the estimated disposable income for a median American household per IRS data from two years before the start of the academic year.

Posted by: Morse Code for J | Jun 23, 2012 8:49:20 AM

The place that the original poster and all of the nonironic comments are describing already exists. It is City University of New York ("CUNY") School of Law

http://www.law.cuny.edu/index.html

Posted by: wquine | Jun 23, 2012 9:49:08 AM

Re: CUNY

Just as Professor Rebecca Bratspies (at CUNY Law!) informed me yesterday on FB, so I included it in the revised list I posted at Ratio Juris and ReligiousLeftLaw: "Toward a Manifesto of Inspiration for a People's Law School."

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Jun 23, 2012 10:58:44 AM

Law school should consist of a semester-long doctrinal crash course, like a bar-review course, to teach the basics fast. Following that, law school should consist of two years of clinics and externships to train each student to try a case, write an appeal, and represent clients in a few practice areas of the student's choice. Of course, such a clinical model would rely on adjunct practitioners, and require the elimination of "prawfs" who wouldn't know a courtroom from a faculty lounge.

Posted by: dyb | Jun 23, 2012 12:23:12 PM

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