Law School: My Four Wishes
There isn’t much I’d change about law school. I’m happy I went. I’m ecstatic to be a lawyer, and I love waking up every morning to work in my own business. Going to law school was actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
So if you’re hoping that I’ll spend this entire post talking about how law school has become irrelevant, I’m sorry to disappoint. Are there things that could be different? Sure there are, and here’s what I suggest:
1. Join The Revolution
There are a million posts about how the legal industry is changing, almost as many as there are articles about how my generation only wants to start companies, not work for them. It’s time that law schools recognized this trend and started catering to the new legal entrepreneur.
“Safe and secure” doesn’t work anymore, and law students know it. It’s time that law schools got the hint. For what it’s worth, my alma mater is taking steps in this direction by developing a Solo and Small Firm Task Force and by its plans to launch a law firm incubator in 2013. Innovation is the name of the game, and it’s going to take a new breed of lawyers to respond to the current market. Lawyers have to think like businessmen and businesswomen or risk extinction at the hands of DIY legal websites.
2. Think Different
It’s no surprise to my friends and family that my second tip is to outlaw all Windows PCs in favor of Apple iMacs, MacBooks, and iPads. Apple products work better, last longer and are more user-friendly than PCs. The only reason they haven’t been adopted in a wider scale is because our profession hates change. I mean, how many lawyers still use Corel Word Perfect?
I know there’s virtually no chance of an Apple revolution at law schools, but it’s my wish list, darn it, and I’ll wish it if I want to.
3. Negotiating 101
It can sometimes be intimidating for new attorneys to go up against more experienced litigators. To solve this, law schools should have a mandated class on negotiating tactics. Students should actually negotiate settlements with more experienced lawyers, so that they can tell when the other side is bluffing and when the other side means business. Heck, maybe even the grade can be negotiable.
With all the talk about the law, many cases are won or lost in conference rooms just outside of the courtroom. Cases are settled on the eve of trial, pleas are bargained on the courthouse steps. Negotiating is just as an important part of lawyering as legal search, yet that skill isn’t touched on in school.
4. State-Specific Curriculum
By far one of the biggest travesties occurring in law schools around the country is the lack of a state-specific curriculum. Most law students practice in the communities where they went to school, so I never understood why part of law school is spent teaching law that will never be cited by those soon-to-be attorneys. The curriculum should be tailored to eliminate parts of the Restatement, or Model Penal Code, or Model Code of Professional Responsibility that conflict with the applicable law of the school’s home state.
The same should happen for the bar exam. The MBE section was, to the extent it tested material that was different than my State’s law, pointless. It’s stupid to learn wrong answers — law schools and bar examiners should stop making students and graduates do it.
Make no mistake, law schools are changing. Just how effective those changes are remains to be seen. Here’s hoping for the best.