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Tuesday, January 19, 2016
The Problem With Law School
At the start of law school, students are fed a ubiquitous truism about the separate phases of their legal education. First, there is law school. Then there is the bar exam. Finally, there is legal practice. The line is fed with a shrug and a smirk. As if to say, only the best of you will be able to conquer all three; mastering one doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to successfully tackle another.

This promise is only slightly better than the other nugget of wisdom proffered to most 1Ls. "Look at the person sitting next to you. Only one of you will be here next year".

Indeed, law school trades upon the idea that law student occupy a sort of elevated intellectual space which the ordinary population could never possibly visit. The competition encouraged within the walls of law schools was always designed to make students better, smarter, stronger. Perhaps there's nothing wrong with that.

But even if the cutthroat competition of law school and its tributaries isn't distasteful to you, the idea that school doesn't prepare students for the bar exam or even legal practice is problematic. Isn't school supposed to prepare students for success?

All the recent talk about the cultural downfall of law schools has centered around different problems-economic cycles, fraud scandals, tough job markets. Blogs abound about declining application numbers, and lower LSAT scores. But perhaps the conundrum is more multifaceted. Is law school simply too elite for its own good?

Shouldn't law school prepare students for the bar exam? And shouldn't both endeavors help steer students deftly into the rigors of legal practice? The sink or swim mentality may force only the toughest cream to the top, but is that really the best thing for the legal profession?

Perhaps the world of Law should consider worrying less about appearances, and more about substance. If winning is measured by the presence of an empty seat at your side, the entire moral compass of the profession has a lot to answer for.


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