1 thing law school isn’t meant to teach you

How to be a lawyer.

My post “10 things I didn’t learn in law school” led to a bunch of comments here, and some links from other blogs. Most of the commenters and other bloggers got it. One person, in the comments at the Marquette law school blog apparently didn’t.

Now he’s back at it and writes this [scroll to comment 11]:

However, I strongly agree with Chris King’s sense of the proper relationship between legal education and the practice of law. We don’t want law school to be lawyer-training school. When we cave in to demands of that sort from the ABA and assorted study commissions, we actually invite alienation among law students and lawyers. Legal education should appreciate the depth of the legal discourse and explore its rich complexities. It should operate on a graduate-school level and graduate people truly learned in the law.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh at the arrogance and short-sightedness or cry for the students at Marquette. Apparently, we don’t want law school to be lawyer-training. We want it to be law professor training school, because this comment gives the impression that that’s all they know. I think he’s a bit defensive, but I could be wrong.

How teaching students to be lawyers will “invite alienation between law students and lawyers” is beyond me [I actually have a hard time understanding what it even means].

As Scott asks, what the fark does “legal education should appreciate the depth of legal discourse” mean. I don’t know. Sounds like a whole lot of nothing.

You know, this is exactly what I was “complaining” about in my post. To the professor who posted that comment: this isn’t an either/or scenario. There are very few people who are as privileged as you are to teach at a law school. The rest of us grunts have to actually, you know, work for our living. So why can’t we get thrown a bone or two here and there? That’s all I’m asking. Or are you telling me that when I show up in court for the first time, and am asked a question by a judge, it’ll be okay if I spend 20 minutes dissecting the question and regaling the judge with the “rich complexities” of the law?

Will the judge give me a pass if I didn’t know that I should stand while objecting because I will be able to give an oral dissertation on the real meaning behind the dormant commerce clause?

Will I get a pass when I won’t know how to pick appropriate jurors because I will enthrall them with anecdotes from the Federalist Papers?

Will it be okay? If I get fired from my menial day job, can I come work with you?

Bennett says it best:

I propose a new motto for Marquette: If you want to practice law, go somewhere else.

Maybe someone could even translate it into Latin.

And because I’m just so damn charitable, here’s a video:

14 thoughts on “1 thing law school isn’t meant to teach you

  1. kerri

    Are you suggesting that students should learn law in an academic sense in law school, but learn courtroom protocol from films and tv shows? Will this be on the test?

    Reply
      1. A Voice of Sanity

        I did have to watch a movie in one of my classes. Utterly useless.

        I keep wondering how Perry Mason could ever stay in business. Hiring dozens of PIs for a little old lady who pays $5 doesn’t seem like a good business plan!

        Reply
    1. Paladin

      No, doofus. Hopefully you were being sarcastic. He is suggesting that law schools should teach the actual practice of law as well as legal theory and history. The law school I went to had professors who actually practiced law as well. We didn’t learn as much as we needed, but it was better than a lot of law students get. The clip is for the famous quote “You can’t handle the truth.” That was, in my opinion meant for the Marquette professor who seems to think learning the niceties of law practice can wait until after one has shelled out the $150,000 for law school. The professor has probably never seen the inside of a courtroom, had a judge yell at him for not knowing proceedure, had a client go to prison because he didn’t know what objection to make or when to make it or how to preserve the record, or had a client lose a lawsuit to a doctor that meant the client would be destitute and dependent upon welfare for the rest of his life because the lawyer didn’t know how to get in or keep out medical records. If he has, he would surely argue for teaching such courtroom tactics in law school, not on the street. Movies can be used for teaching points, but movies are not real life.

      Reply
  2. five tomatoes

    I love to hate on Marquette Law more than I should but I think those arrogant comments come from Marquette students because they don’t have to take a bar exam. They literally wake up one day and are magically lawyers by virtue of attending a law school in Wisconsin. A lot of them think this means they were qualified to be lawyers from the day they were accepted and therefore just want to engage in academic masturbation instead of learning things that might be on the bar and maybe even useful in real life. This is true with some Wisconsin grads but I’ve found it to be much less with them, perhaps because more of their colleagues leave the state and therefore take a bar.

    Reply
  3. Ryan

    In law school, while studying the difference between murder and manslaughter we watched clips from Thelma and Louise.

    The most important things to do in law school are clinics, moot court, trial methods classes, and externships. Get in court, have clients, and learn the practice.

    Reply
    1. Sharon

      This is precisely why I network. To learn that its bigger than just law school and the experience is gained with the things you’ve mentioned. I’m about to start LS and enjoy being eyes wide open going into it.

      Reply
  4. JailhouseLawyer

    Marquette gets singled out because one of its ivory-tower ensconced professors descended into the muck, mire, and filth of the internets and deigned to comment on the musings of a practitioner. How generous of the noble professor.

    I am certain that the majority of all law professors would agree with the Marquette prof. The dean of the 4th tier law school I graduated from agrees, and it’s a shame, because the school churns out people who actually practice law. The majority of them are solos and many are in criminal defense. There is a wealth of practical knowledge in the alumni population that the faculty seem happy to shun. I will hazard a guess and say that my school, and Marquette, are not alone.

    In fact, I am certain that they are wrong. I’ve lost track of which comment on which blog mentioned this, but the difference between, say, someone with a masters in engineering and someone with a J.D. is that you are prohibited from lawyering without state licensure. No such limitation exists for many other graduate programs. The legal education “profession” (though I know they’d rather be termed an “academy”) needs to take a page from medical schools, where students get steeped in fancy book-learning, and even do some research, before spending years in internship and residency actually learning their profession.

    I learned a lot from the unpaid internships I had: working for two appellate judges and the county public defender. I also got a paid gig for the federal public defender. I was a ruthless networker in law school. When CLEs would let students attend for free, I would, and I would chat up the sage and war-worn attorneys at lunch. Those hours were well-spent and provided a good base for me to build upon when I graduated and began a solo practice.

    I also did moot court and law review and made great grades in classes that were heavily tested on the bar. I did pass the bar on my first go, and I’m grateful for that — though who is to say that credit for that belongs to my coursework and not the good folks at BarBri and PMBR? That said, I think that time was, as the locals down south say, about as useful as shining a turd.

    I now make it my business to bring a little bit of my particular brand of sunshine back to the law school and warn those coming along behind me that their legal education is largely intellectual masturbation. You may be surprised to find that I am not always welcomed with open arms at my alma mater.

    And, for what it’s worth, this is all why Susan Carter Liebel is going to do really well with Solo Practice University. She’s exploiting the tremendous unmet need the law schools are too busy to address, what with all their time spent “appreciating the depth of legal discourse” and the like.

    Reply
  5. JailhouseLawyer

    Marquette gets singled out because one of its ivory-tower ensconced professors descended into the muck, mire, and filth of the internets and deigned to comment on the musings of a practitioner. How generous of the noble professor.

    I am certain that the majority of all law professors would agree with the Marquette prof. The dean of the 4th tier law school I graduated from agrees, and it’s a shame, because the school churns out people who actually practice law. The majority of them are solos and many are in criminal defense. There is a wealth of practical knowledge in the alumni population that the faculty seem happy to shun. I will hazard a guess and say that my school, and Marquette, are not alone.

    In fact, I am certain that they are wrong. David Kindley commented on the original post at http://law.marquette.edu/facultyblog/2008/12/15/things-law-school-doesnt-teach/#comments about the difference between, say, someone with a masters in engineering and someone with a J.D. is that you are prohibited from lawyering without state licensure. No such limitation exists for many other graduate programs. The legal education “profession” (though I know they’d rather be termed an “academy”) needs to take a page from medical schools, where students get steeped in fancy book-learning, and even do some research, before spending years in internship and residency actually learning their profession.

    I learned a lot from the unpaid internships I had: working for two appellate judges and the county public defender. I also got a paid gig for the federal public defender. I was a ruthless networker in law school. When CLEs would let students attend for free, I would, and I would chat up the sage and war-worn attorneys at lunch. Those hours were well-spent and provided a good base for me to build upon when I graduated and began a solo practice.

    I also did moot court and law review and made great grades in classes that were heavily tested on the bar. I did pass the bar on my first go, and I’m grateful for that — though who is to say that credit for that belongs to my coursework and not the good folks at BarBri and PMBR? That said, I think that time was, as the locals down south say, about as useful as shining a turd.

    I now make it my business to bring a little bit of my particular brand of sunshine back to the law school and warn those coming along behind me that their legal education is largely intellectual masturbation. You may be surprised to find that I am not always welcomed with open arms at my alma mater.

    And, for what it’s worth, this is all why Susan Carter Liebel is going to do really well with Solo Practice University. She’s exploiting the tremendous unmet need the law schools are too busy to address, what with all their time spent “appreciating the depth of legal discourse” and the like.

    Reply
  6. aprivatedefender

    Gideon – for what its worth, I’m looking forward to not seeing this silliness drag your blog down. Your insight into timely CT legal issues is far too valuable to get mired in these insular “blogger-type” debates. Rest assured – while your continue to add a valuable voice to legal news in CT, these idiots will be seen for what they are without multiple responses.

    Reply
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