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Friday, March 23, 2012

Props to the National Jurist

Those magazines for law students that clog up the entrances to every law school are rarely worth reading; a couple of so-so articles and then an endless list of advertisements for LL.M. programs and overseas studies opportunities. That said, I have found the National Jurist an increasingly must-read magazine recently. It's done quite a decent job of covering "law school crisis" issues. I hope professors and students alike will make an increased effort to pick it up and even encourage its editors to keep up the real reporting. There are three pieces in the latest issue (free, but registration required) that are worth looking at:

1) William Henderson's latest column. All of them are must-reads, and I found this one particularly interesting, although I didn't agree with all of it. Henderson argues that law schools continue to suffer a century-long hangover stemming from their awkward position within the university, and that law professors should get over their academic inferiority complex and focus on the ways in which both schools and professors can add value, which involves forging a closer connection to the world of legal practice. (I should add that I don't disagree with this general point.)

2) On the next page, there's an interesting article about changes in the curriculum and other aspects of Stanford Law School.

The changes are described as intended "to better utilize the second and third year of law school to prepare students for the role they should play in society."  Among those changes are more "team-oriented, problem-solving courses" involving both law professors and professors from other disciplines. I was also impressed by the description of two new online programs, one of which helps students engage in course selection in a way that will better correspond to their career plans, and the other of which "helps match them with alumni working in that area."  The school is also, according to the article, moving toward a mandatory clinic requirement. I should add that there is a seeming tension between the Henderson piece and the Stanford piece, since some of what Stanford is doing, although practically oriented, is aimed not at basic practicing lawyers but at lawyers who "have a valuable role to play in helping to solve the world's problems," an approach "that calls for more than knowing how to analyze case law."  But I think the tension is not real. Stanford appears to be aiming to make its program more practical for the kind of students it gets and the kinds of jobs they may be able to do. Not every school needs to have precisely the same ambitions, and each school ought to tailor its programs in light of its own position and students. I especially applaud Stanford for its course selection and alumni matching programs; would that the ABA required something like this of every school instead of counting books in the library.

3) The cover piece, on how well or poorly law schools are doing in terms of transparency issues, is also well worth reading. I should disclose with regret that Alabama ranks poorly on this issue, according to the  criteria employed, although, as far as I can tell in having investigated the issue, not for reasons of bad faith. That said, I hope and think we will do better. Regardless of how my own institution fares, it's still a valuable article. 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on March 23, 2012 at 11:27 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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There are some interesting quotes on pages 33 and 37, too.

Posted by: Baker | Mar 23, 2012 4:15:35 PM

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