Law.com had a post this week with a great quote from an AGC of United Technologies. He basically called recent law school graduates “worthless.”
Ahh – this lovely quote took me back in time. Some time back in the 90’s I attended a seminar that covered this same subject. After sitting through the general session, I renamed it the “Whose Fault is it?” Seminar. The program was a collaboration of the Organized Bar, the Law Schools and the Private Bar (a.k.a. law firms). Everyone agreed that law school graduates did not graduate with the necessary practical skills needed for actually practicing law. But then everyone disagreed on who was to blame for this.
Law schools were following the proud tradition of educating students on the foundations of the law using the ever-popular Socratic method. The organized bar was then testing them to see if they actually learned these foundations and then spit them out on to the market. Law firms would then give these newly minted lawyers a half-day course on WordPerfect 5.1, the gold standard of the day, and set them to billing time. Depending on which section of the audience you represented, the blame was placed on: A) law schools for not teaching sufficient (if any) practice skills, B) the organized bar for not actually testing these people on real-world skills, or C) law firms for not properly training new lawyers. This engaging dialogue lead to … more of the same.
There have been a few changes since then. My former employer, the Utah State Bar, instituted a Mentor Program. Some law schools have added practice management courses (electives though). And law firms have professional development professionals on staff. But the bottom line, especially for Chester Paul Beach, is that the core problem remains. Only he clearly blames the law schools. IMHO the system should shoulder the blame and not any one component.
At the end of the seminar I attended I was conversing with a law school dean about how law schools might adapt and adjust to address this problem. The response: “We won’t be taking that path any time soon. We’re academic institutions, not vocational schools.”
Classic and oddly prophetic.