Law Schools Push Back Against Scalia's Criticism of Legal Education

, Legal Times

   | 4 Comments

Law school leaders and professors are pushing back at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s latest criticisms of legal education.

What's being said

  • T

    When a person completes one year of law school and can take a BarBri course and pass a Bar Exam we need to ask about the value of the law school preparation. Would it be better to go back to the Lincoln method and require 1-year of law school, 2 years to 3 years of work within a law firm and then have students take a BarBri type course? In this scenario, when the student takes and passes the Bar exam they would have an endorsement on their license that indicates that they specialize in a specific area of law.

    This specialization requirement would prevent an attorney, who has practiced property law for several years, from deciding to take a criminal case, or a person who practices criminal law deciding to take a case that is grounded in administrative law. These cases rarely have a happy ending.

    Also, there is confusion among the general public as to what a J.D. degree is all about. There is a sense that the person has a terminal degree, when in fact the terminal degree is the JSD or Doctor of Laws. There are very few attorneys who possess a JSD, since it is actually not needed for the general practice of law. The J.D., which is the equivalent to the LLB, should be changed back in order to prevent any confusion among those in public and in academe.

    In short, I think that a rigorous legal education is necessary, but having seen new attorneys having difficulty in the actual practice of the law coupled with the thought that one could practice in any aspect of the law, regardless of one‘s level of competency, is disturbing. There is a business end to the practice of law and new attorneys struggle with this part of the practice on a daily basis. The residency (I‘ll refer to the last 1 year to 2 years at a law firm as a "residency," but it could be referred to as a "practicum" or "internship") would allow the student to learn about the business end of running a law practice and, hopefully, teach the student how to schedule their time during the day.

    Last, but not least, I agree with many attorneys who have expressed part of the problem as having too many attorneys. Now, we have online law schools trying to get some of the money flowing for this type of education. There has to be a point where the opportunities to enter law school are few and only those truly gifted in the practice of the law are allowed to go forward and practice the law. We have too many mediocre attorneys, today, and this has caused some serious problems, especially in criminal law.

  • Todd Liebman

    I agree with Justice Scalia, and completely disagree with those who would turn a legal education into a VoTech program. The law school experience needs to be a rigorous, scholarly pursuit. Learning to practice law is not something easily taught in law school anyway, and can only be effectively done in a practice setting by practicing attorneys. Skill development is best addressed through clerkships, an attorney‘s first job, and occasionally through well designed clinical programs.

  • K

    The problem is there are to many lawyers. There should be a contraction of law schools which would create a stronger pool of lawyers. Making it easier and more affordable will not produce better lawyers, it will only further dilute the profession and allow people to choose law on whim. The ABA is the biggest problem, they keep accrediting school after school citing access to the lawyers needs to increase. There are plenty of lawyers, however, not many of they want to be accessible if that means they cannot be compensated. The ABA should begin stripping accreditation until less than 100 Schools are accredited and they should set a maximum class size of 300. This will help begin to sift out people who are qualified to advise people of important life decisions and those who just did not know how to proceed when they could not find a job with their B- undergrad degree.

  • Fred Furrer

    As one who is constantly being battered by unscrupulous lawyers who think they can scam and defraud me out of my hard-earned wealth, I think there needs to be more of an emphasis on trying to instill ethics into the minds of new lawyers, and get them to think less about how to get rich quick by piling on the "billable hours".

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