Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Only In Law School

From an email circulated to the student body:

The Moot Court Program at Liberal College Law

In 1905 a group of Liberal College law students, fed up with the abstract theory being taught in their law classes, formed a Law Club for the purpose of holding moot courts. The students hoped that these extracurricular gatherings would give them the experience they needed to become better lawyers. Today, Liberal College Law sends its students to over twenty-one regional, national and international moot court competitions.

To read more about an exhibition on the history of Moot Court at Liberal College Law, and to see the very unusual Object of the Month for November, go to the Law School Archives web site."

I wonder what that "very unusual Object of the Month" is.

And you have to love an academic discipline that straddles the line between the esoteric and the practical so imperfectly as to have its students revolt by creating an academic club against theory. This would never happen in other departments at the cognate disciplines, because without theory, what would the grad students learn or get into useless debates over?

I always used to joke that going to law school is like going to beauty school to get your cosmetology license--it's just another paper-granting institution. But that's not entirely true, as we all know. Especially at the top-ranked schools, there is very little focus on clinical programs. Indeed, law school is not where you go to "learn the law." The professionalization of law school--which is, indeed a "professional school" in which you learn to be a "professional" rather than an "academic"--is one that seems at odds with the current interdisciplinary, research-oriented focus. Why the demand for J.D./Ph.Ds if we're supposed to be training lawyers to do law?

I imagine that in a few years, there will be more student uprisings by students fed up with the statistics, sociology, political science and economics being taught in their law classes.


Blogger emfink said...

I wonder what that "very unusual Object of the Month" is.

It really doesn't seem all that unusual. September's OOTM, OTOH, is pretty unusual.

11/06/2007 9:31 PM  
Blogger Marie T. Reilly said...

Belle, it is still quite possible to learn lots of useful, practical law in law school. But, you haave to actually register for law courses: Evidence, Tax, Administrative Law, Bankruptcy, Trusts & Estates, Antitrust, Commercial Law, to name a few. These courses present real legal problems and reveal to students how to solve them. In so doing, these courses show students how to earn money on their law degrees.

I've been looking at the law school transcripts of faculty teaching candidates. Many have loaded up on Law 'N Blank courses and missed entirely what I consider the law in law school. I'm worried that the pool of candidates for law teaching is skewed toward those who learned little or no law in law school. That's scary.

11/07/2007 8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marie, the problem with your advice to take these allegedly more "substantive" classes, at least for those who wish to teach, is that (as I am told pretty consistently by those in legal academe) that the number one thing to do while you are in law school is take courses or seminars that permit you to write papers that can be developed into publishable material. At my "Tier One", each and every one of the courses you cited has the exact same pedagogical and evaluative model; huge sections of a hundred or so students, mostly lecture, and one big three hour exam at the end. In other words, first year all over again. No potential for serious academic writing, and really, no potential to develop a closer relationship with a faculty member that will prove crucial when the academic job search comes around.
I realize, given the demand for those "real" law classes, that small seminar environments are unlikely in most places, but for those of us who really hate that large lecture, winner-take-all final exam format, we really have no choice but to look for other kinds of classes.

11/09/2007 11:03 PM  

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