Friday, February 09, 2007

The Law School-Big Law Complex?

The always-interesting Carolyn Elefant over at has a take on the revamped curriculum at University of Detroit Mercy Law School. It ties into the recent flurry around associate alienation in the big law firm world, provoked by the multiple posts from David Luban, and commented on by others, including Jeff Harrison just below and me. Carolyn's reaction brings to mind John Steele's observation over at Legal Ethics Forum about the pyramid structure of law schools feeding into the pyramid structure of the law industry. John notes "if we're talking about fundamental structural change in the legal profession we have to discuss the school-firm complex."

Carolyn has a link and reaction to a National Law Journal article on the new third-year curriculum at SempleUDM in which all students will be required to practice what appears to be "big firm" law, in a program designed in conjunction with lawyers from firms like Baker & McKenzie and Skadden. (Disclosure: I know Craig Roeder from Baker & McKenzie, who is mentioned in the article, and the former chairman of Dykema Gossett in Detroit, Lloyd Semple (left), who is the distinguished visiting professor running the program, is my former partner.) The gist is the question why a school like UDM, which is unlikely to place more than a small minority of students in big law firms, is making a "big law" program its capstone experience.

I don't know enough to make a judgment. It's entirely possible that it's the big firms that have the time and resources to devote to UDM, and the skills being taught are universal. And you certainly have to give a nod to UDM for its willingness to break out of the mold. And Lloyd, who is a big guy with a Chris Berman like booming voice, will certainly do a good job of playing senior partner. Indeed, when I started at Dykema in 1979, he was the partner in charge of the associates, and he scared the crap out of me.

But check out Carolyn's post and the interesting comments.


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