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Thought Experiment: Why Not A Teaching Law Firm To Increase Experiential Learning?

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24 Responses

  1. 1L says:

    Was this not more commonplace at schools such as the City University of New York School of Law, years ago, when they instituted classes to be centered around simulations and requisite clinical programs in order to enable students to practice from day one and advocate on behalf of those truly in need for advocacy and representation? I do believe schools such as these were the “trendsetters.”

  2. deven says:

    1L, Great point regarding earlier approaches to in school experiential learning. I tried to acknowledge that by noting Northeastern’s program and as far as I can tell Vanderbilt has been working of this approach for a couple of years. But as far as I know, no one has set up a full-scle, affiliated but separate teaching law firm similar to a teaching hopsital. If you know something like that, please let me know.

    best

    Deven

  3. MDdoingJD says:

    Much of what you have written makes sense, and I wish that law school provided more clinical experience. Frankly, I am amazed at the lack of legal experiential learning built into the standard law school curriculum. However, one sentence misses the point: “Yes, I am suggesting that the idea that medical students’ clinical work is vastly superior to the externships, clinics, and the like that many law students undertake is a myth.” The _average_ medical student gets far more clinical training during school that the _average_ law student. I did the MD (followed by many years of residency training), and I am now doing the JD. Did you ever consider the fact that MDs simply need far more clinical training than JDs? JDs need to know how to research answers, while MDs need to have THE ANSWER when awakened from a sound sleep at 3 AM.

  4. Deven says:

    MDdoingJD,

    Thanks for the feedback. I think I may be missing what you re saying. On the one hand you seem to be saying that you think law should have much more experience-based training. On the other hand you are saying that MDs need much more than JDs. So which is it?

    Also I think you will find that once in practice, there is a large amount of training that is not related to knowing how to research. Handling discovery, a summary judgment motion, a TRO, or even a complaint when you are in practice and the one asked to do it, does not often allow for research on how to do it. Partners and associates expect you to do it and often have no time to teach.

    In addition, are you really saying that once one graduates from law school one will fully know how to practice trusts and estates, criminal defense, personal injury, or any other law? I doubt that you are syaing this but I am not sure. Maybe we are agreeing that the number of years of training for lawyers is unclear. That could be true. Put differently, law was an apprentice profession with years of training. It may still be that and just not appear that way.

  5. MDdoingJD says:

    Deven, there are NO hands involved. ;-) The answer to your first paragraph questions is YES. :-)

    I do realize that JDs need clinical training. For the niche that I will be entering, I have heard that legal proficiency takes 5-7 years after finishing law school.

    JDs need some clinical training during school, and it needs to be a REQUIREMENT. For example, I had a paid 1L summer law job, because I have years of non-law school experience that made me a “useful” clerk. Most of my law classmates were stuck doing summer school or a volunteer clerkship, because they could not land a paid summer law job where they could get some REAL clinical experience.

    MDs need more clinical training than JDs to be be effective (defined as helping and for MDs not killing people). MDs need more training during school and after school than JDs. By training, I mean someone else has to sign off/supervise MDs longer and more thoroughly than I imagine will exist in legal practice (based on what I have seen and heard, so far).

    What JD carries around in his/her head substantive information that he/she must immediately use on being awakened from a sound sleep at 3 AM? Or under the constant onslaught of a new patient/client every 5 to 20 minutes in clinic? I suspect that full time litigators (and judges) needing to be that quick witted, but I really wonder about other JDs. And aren’t full time litigators only a small percentage of all practicing JDs?

    In closing, I agree with your statement that “law was an apprentice profession with years of training. It may still be that and just not appear that way.”

    PS One thing that has really IMPRESSED me about JDs is their precise thinking and ability to clearly define the EXACT question that needs to be answered — very impressive. Medicine is far messier.

  6. MDdoingJD says:

    Deven, there are NO hands involved. ;-) The answer to your first paragraph questions is YES. :-)

    I do realize that JDs need clinical training. For the niche that I will be entering, I have heard that legal proficiency takes 5-7 years after finishing law school.

    JDs need some clinical training during school, and it needs to be a REQUIREMENT. For example, I had a paid 1L summer law job, because I have years of non-law school experience that made me a “useful” clerk. Most of my law classmates were stuck doing summer school or a volunteer clerkship, because they could not land a paid summer law job where they could get some REAL clinical experience.

    MDs need more clinical training than JDs to be be effective (defined as helping and for MDs not killing people). MDs need more training during school and after school than JDs. By training, I mean someone else has to sign off/supervise MDs longer and more thoroughly than I imagine will exist in legal practice (based on what I have seen and heard, so far).

    What JD carries around in his/her head substantive information that he/she must immediately use on being awakened from a sound sleep at 3 AM? Or under the constant onslaught of a new patient/client every 5 to 20 minutes in clinic? I suspect that full time litigators (and judges) needing to be that quick witted, but I really wonder about other JDs. And aren’t full time litigators only a small percentage of all practicing JDs?

    In closing, I agree with your statement that “law was an apprentice profession with years of training. It may still be that and just not appear that way.”

    PS One thing that has really IMPRESSED me about JDs is their precise thinking and ability to clearly define the EXACT question that needs to be answered — very impressive. Medicine is far messier.

  7. Deven,

    Though I have no problems with your proposal as such, as someone who works at a medical school and teaches medical students I’d recommend caution before I’d go holding up medical education as the model law should emulate.

    There is a tremendous amount of research on the deficiencies in medical education, perhaps most notably, the loss of empathy that tends to occur to students during medical school, the lack of instruction on the importance of critical analysis and reflection, and the major effect of the so-called hidden curriculum.

    I say this not to bash medical education per se, but simply to note that it has its own set of problems to deal with.

  8. Deven says:

    Daniel,

    Thanks much. To be clear, I am not saying that medical school is the model to emulate in general. I think that the literature about law school tends to make the assertion that medical school models are the way to go. Rather, to me it seems that the experience issue in law could learn a bit from medical school in that the access to a teaching hospital allows medical students to learn in clinical environments that are formal, institutionalized, and perhaps better. There is a division between basic science and clinical years (though I think that is changing too) correct? None of which goes to the important points you make. The irony may be that law school is rather good at critical analysis and reflection and medical school is better at the experience side of things. Neither seems to produce satisfaction. Maybe that is good as people will improve the systems (I would love to know more about the hidden curriculum). Still I am not sure that either claims to or can produce someone 100% ready to practice.

    So how would you rate medial school on the experience side? How much clinical training does a medical student really have? Do they continually lay hands on patients? From talking to friends and family who are doctors (some of whom teach at medical schools) my impression is that in one’s subinternship that is possible. But from my discussions it also seems that depending on the type of facility, the attending doctor or resident, and the rotation medical students mainly observe. They learn how to take histories too of course. But the average true hands on is not the sort of thing that occurs in medical school. That occurs in internship and residency.

    As you teach at a medical school, I am all ears and deeply appreciate your thoughts about these points.

    Best

    Deven

  9. George says:

    I will graduate in May from a third tier law school, and take the bar in July. If I pass, I get a license to practice law. Period. I have done no clinical work; I have not clerked, or interned. I have passed 82 credit hours of classes, but I did not do well.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but except for some state statutes that bar the inexperienced from capital criminal cases, once I pass the bar, I am free to practice law. Any law. The only thing preventing me from working on the most complex cases is my salesmanship. Even the Rules of Professional Conduct do not demand I know anything about a particular area of law before I take the case. So come November, there will be at least one attorney with no experience and mediocre legal judgment roaming the streets free to practice law, and my guess is I am not alone.

    How much damage to the profession and to the lives of people is done because there is no supervision over new associates? Am I the only one that’s disturbed by this? My guess is medical students don’t get that kind of freedom right out of medical school. Why should law students?

  10. Hey Deven,

    Yes, I agree with you that the literature about legal education does tend to make the assertion that medical school models are the way to go, and I want to say that such an assertion is dubious, or at least should be subject to far more critical reflection than I perceive going on.

    If the research on the hidden curriculum is valid — and it is quite robust — the suggestion is that formal pedagogy has a very, very small influence in shaping the kind of doctoring the individual will practice (which isn’t to say we should trash formal lecturing in med school, only that we should be aware of the probability that it is not the primary component that determines how students and trainees will practice and comport themselves).

    I certainly think clinical practices are deeply important. Part of the reason I find value in ethics work is in no small part because it is a kind of clinical practice, and forces me to think differently and apply my learning in totally different ways in real-life situations. Such a model is entirely consistent with the Renaissance humanists I try to emulate, who stressed engagement with the real world and with actual people practicing actual lives.

    I think your surmise that law may encourage critical analysis more so than medical education may have some merit to it, as does your surmise that medical education has incorporated practical, clinical training into its pedagogical model better than law. That’s at least partly why I like the model you’ve sketched above.

    As for how much clinical training a medical student/trainee has, I’m not equipped or knowledgeable enough to be able to fairly generalize (you’d want to talk to a medical sociologist/consult that literature, as they are generally the experts on this). But the idea of the material on the hidden curriculum is that what actually matters — from a learned perspective — is much less the actual “laying of hands” and much more the behavior and conduct their mentors and superiors model for them. It is the latter that is the single most important set of criteria that seems to shape how trainees conduct themselves as professional healers.

  11. MDdoingJD says:

    Hi Daniel S. Goldberg: I found your paragraph fascinating. “There is a tremendous amount of research on the deficiencies in medical education, perhaps most notably, the loss of empathy that tends to occur to students during medical school, the lack of instruction on the importance of critical analysis and reflection, and the major effect of the so-called hidden curriculum.”

    I have not looked at the literature, I just graduated from a top tier medical school, but I would like to add my two cents.

    1) I recognized that my empathy was evaporating during medical, but eventually I got it back. I always found medical education oddly structured for producing empathic physicians. One enters medical school and is spit out the other side 7 to 14 years later (4 years of school plus further training) after working long hours and oftentimes going DEEPLY into debt. One loses touch with the non-medical world. Thankfully, I do not like hospitals so that I always wanted to bolt rather than hang out as I saw many MDs and MDs in training do. BTW, is there a correlation between loss of empathy and debt burden?

    2) I am not sure that I understand “critical analysis and reflection,” but I do understand “critical analysis.” Unfortunately, there is sometimes not a lot of critical analysis in clinical medicine. Think about the last time you, or someone that you know, had a problem that the MD did not immediately understand. Unfortunately, it is entirely too common for the MD to then tell the patient it is all in their “head.” I used to see a lot of patients who were told that, but by taking the time to work through their problem I could figure out what the problem was. I would hope that I was not that unusual, but sometimes I wondered.

    3) So, “hidden curriculum” is modeling behavior and conduct? That curriculum just sounds like a variation on the law school crap about “learning to think like a lawyer” in law school.

    BTW, medicine has that mantra “See one, do one, teach one.” The problem with the current law school curriculum at many schools is that it breaks down at the very first step. Where do I “see” a lawyer in action in the standard curriculum?

    Hi Deven: I am sorry to hear that you have heard that “medical students mainly observe.” Fortunately, my medical school was very strong clinically, and I picked my residency programs based on clinical strength, also. Unfortunately, some students are probably seduced by research reputations/National name recognition.

    Hi George: I understand your concern. The leg up that you have on others is that you are aware of your deficiencies. :-) I wish you well in developing your clinical skills.

  12. MDdoingJD,

    (1) The loss of empathy is well-studied. In fact, there was a study published on this in Academic Medicine just in the last month, I believe:

    http://www.academicmedicine.org/pt/re/acmed/abstract.00001888-200803000-00006.htm

    I’m not sure about the correlation between loss of empathy and debt burden, though I would not be surprised. One of the reasons medical students and trainees are so vulnerable in terms of power dynamics is the debt burden. Some actors know this and try to use it to their advantage — why do you think the pharmaceutical industry has traditionally aggressively marketed products to med students and trainees?

    (2) This one is a bit harder to define, but pedagogy in medical education emphasizes the substantive information much more than the process of reflecting upon that information. Some say such a focus is needed, but the de-emphasis on critical reflection is inadvisable to my liking, not least of which because it impedes the healer from thinking deeply on their own practices. Healers aren’t robots, and while no one thinks they are, it’s not too implausible to suggest the method of schooling that does not prioritize critcal thinking doesn’t help impart empathy and the moral imagination.

    (3) The literature on the hidden curriculum is robust. It generally refers to the nonobvious, informal pathways to learning — from peers, colleagues, and most importantly, from mentors and leaders. This last one is particularly important inasmuch as it suggests that if change in medical education is desired, change must come from the top-down more than the bottom-up. If you want to change healing practices, you cannot simply focus on medical students; you’ve got to work with the mentors and leaders.

    Easier said than done!

    Hope that helps, and obviously, all of the above is JMO. I’m certainly not a traditional thinker when it comes to medical education, in no small part because I’m an outsider.

    But I prefer it that way.

  13. A.J. Sutter says:

    In Germany, practical experience (a period known as Referendarzeit) is a compulsory part of legal education. But since all lawyers have gone through that themselves, law firms and other institutions are better set-up to accomodate it. Moreover, much of the Referendarzeit is spent in government institutions, and the whole operation is supervised and funded by the local Landgericht (roughly, state supreme court). (Caveat: I’m speaking from hearsay, not personal experience.)

    Unless states gets more hands-on for this (fat chance, in the current budgetary climate), I have a few questions about a teaching law firm:

    1. Where would the partners (or however you want to characterize the professionals who would need to supervise student activities) come from? Law professors? Excuse me, but many of you folks don’t have a lot of practical experience yourselves. Retired lawyers, mid- or late-career lawyers who find themselves out of work? Partners as adjuncts from law firms?

    2. What kind of matters would be handled? That they should be more public service matters seems like a good thing, from a social standpoint. But that seems to be how a lot of clinics already work now. So what would be different? And how about transactional matters? Would it really make a difference to a big firm that does international deals or M&A, e.g., that a first-year has experience with criminal cases, divorces or setting up a corporation? That’s not purely a rhetorical question: maybe having some experience with leases and very small contract negotiation could be helpful.

    Nonetheless, one advantage in medical education is that all human bodies are roughly alike, while deals (and even lawsuits) tend to sort among different kinds of firms.

    3. How would the firm attract clients? If the firm would just be another clinic, then what’s so new? If I were GC of even a middle-sized company why would I want to entrust a significant matter to a teaching firm? Again, the comparison to med schools is interesting. Stanford Hospital is tertiary care, state-of-the-art, while USC used to (and maybe still does, at least in part) train students at L.A. County Hospital, which is something quite different (gunshot wounds not so common in Palo Alto). Would different teaching law firms choose different markets?

  14. MDdoingJD says:

    Hi A.J. Sutter:

    1. Great point.

    2. Another great point about MDs working on the same body. Another difference in law and medical training is that all MDs from a given school usually share at least the same first year of clinical experience, and MDs constantly work with different specialties so we have some familiarity with what all MDs do.

    3. But medical schools often have multiple hospital affiliations so that a good training program exposes students, residents, and fellows to many aspects of medical care from high end tertiary care to trauma. (My teaching was certainly quite varied.) I wonder how hard that diversity would be to reproduce in law experiential teaching. Unless a compelling reason was made for clients with money to use the teaching law firm, the teaching clinical material could end up quite narrow. I am not sure how useful that would be for students.

  15. George says:

    My apologies, I should have connected what I said to the teaching firm idea that you have put forth, which I think would remedy the learning gap for new associates without the onus so heavily placed on said associate and especially the unwary client who should not have to pay extra (time, cash, emotion, property)for first year fumbling.

  16. Deven says:

    So thanks again for all the comments.

    Daniel,

    Hidden curriculum – ah yes, I see what you are talking about. The Carnegie Report’s focus on professionalism seems to go to this idea. Such an approach seems to rely on good models, correct? (I think you note this point in one of your comments). The idea of top-down makes sense with that view. In law a problem may exist because law firms are about billing. As my initial post indicated, some firms are moving to no or reduced billable hours for first year associates as a way to train and improve retention. One may stay longer if one is not thrown in with little guidance and support to growing into the next level of professional life. Partners and associates, however, are not teachers by trade or custom (I was fortunate to have gone to a firm where on top of rather high hours, I was trained by the partner with whom I worked the most.). Instead the idea is to bill and be efficient. Often one will emulate the bad habits that one picked up from those who did one’s training. (Law firm management suffers from this problem too although some firms are moving to professional managers). Which leads to A.J.’s questions.

    A.J.,

    I am walking through possibilities. There is not likely one pure answer. As such I am not advocating for a mandated residency. One may want such training but I am not sure that it is necessary or would work. If one tried to do that, your point about funding must be addressed. Teaching hospitals receive a fair amount of money to fund their training programs (I hear it may be in jeopardy which could severely reduce access to medical care for the poor). In any event, yes, if one wanted a required program funding becomes a bigger problem. Still, there is some government funding insofar as The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 I think allows one to have reduced payments if one is working public sector jobs. So a teaching law firm may seek to work in partnership with such agencies.

    I may post a new entry about the possible mechanics of such a firm but I will address some of your points here. Again if you re-read the post I state that the models will likely vary depending on the school and the local market. The types of cases will vary but it could be that some of these firms will have the large cases. And insofar as one wants to be a corporate attorney, the access and opportunity to be even the low person on the team is huge. I was fortunate that in my in-house incarnation I had two excellent mentors who taught me transactional on the job. The more complex matters were not directly in my hands but just watching and understanding why the details work had to be done taught me about how the deals worked and how to do them. (I will address the human bodies are alike idea when I get to MDdoing JD)

    As for the who would teach, you are excused only partially :). Your assumption about practical experience is not as accurate as you might think if you look at all law schools. Still the idea that an active practice attorney offers something different than a professor merits more comment.

    Leaving aside the cynicism of “Retired lawyers, mid- or late-career lawyers who find themselves out of work?” There are many possibilities and irony in your apparent view. Of course you want someone with experience. So the folks you deride are in good shape to be faculty of such an institution. But implicitly one must consider the teaching side of the faculty. So one if I were building this place I would seek out partners, of counsels, government attorneys, judges, AND work with existing law school faculties. There are many attorneys who find that the life of 2000 to 2400 billable hours is not satisfying despite the money. There are many who may want to be in an environment where they teach, research, and handle live cases (this person my be the closest to the clinical professor of medicine who teaches as part of his or her job). In addition, by working with an affiliated law school, the teaching firm could have required instruction as part of the day with the faculty of the firm also teaching while the attorneys work in the day and the law students watch and learn as well.

    MDdoingJD,

    First if you really believe the think like a lawyer idea is “law school crap” we should chat in person. For someone who wants critical thinking this idea should make sense.

    Second, remember that I note how varied medical school experience really is. Some schools may have more clinical training and there seems to be a shift to letting students do more, but I don’t think it is widespread or as robust as you claim. So at least be specific about exactly what you did in medical school. And even if you did more than others, that experience would likely be anomalous. Nonetheless, I know many of my friends encountered the tension between great training and research reputation in tertiary settings.

    Third, this idea of needing to wake up with an answer is vague. Why does this idea matter for this discussion? Of course the two professions are different. Yes, I see how you could view doctors as those who need to mug up information and after time they become human computers who regurgitate information. So what? So far it is not connected to the discussion. In the words of Dieter on Sprockets “You have become tiresome.” (at least on this point).

    Fourth, the point about many affiliations is excellent. A law school may connect with several firms or operate a rather large firm so students could rotate and see it all. Why would clients or firms want this model? Great question. They may not. But if there is a gap where clients do not want to pay for first year associate training and firms could work with a school to improve the training and retention (thus building on what some medium firms are hoping to do without the law school relationship) there may be a way to make such a firm work.

    Now, do not conflate medical school and law school. I am not saying all law students would go through the teaching hospital. It would an additional, different offering for experiential learning.

    Fifth, what are you saying about working on one body? It is incoherent. What do you mean about all MDs have the same first year of clinical experience? Again if your criticism or comment is that law schools could not emulate the medical school model, that point has been addressed: wholesale copying of medical school is not the point or idea. It is an idea and analogy that must be tailored to the capacities and possibilities of a school and its market.

    You know that the two schools are not the same. I am not suggesting they should be. Please stop conflating the two and writing as if that is what I am saying.

    George,

    You raise a good point about law. One graduates as a generalist. One may practice as one wishes. Whether a required training program is the way to go for the profession is well-beyond this post or my current thinking on the subject. The public sector and firms fill some of the training gap but also throw attorneys into the fray. The difference is that there is some support structure compared to a pure solo practice. Nonetheless I think there are some groups where solo and small firms informally advise each other. In addition, the bar should have some resources on the topic. I urge you to seek out folks in practice. Contrary to the image many attorneys are willing and interested in helping someone who is new and has good questions. In fact start that relationship NOW. Reach out to someone in practice and ask about what they would do in law school. Do not ask for a job. Ask for advice on being a good attorney and how to build a practice. What would he or she have done differently? What classes would be helpful? And so on.

    Last, if there is a gap in affordable attorney service and there are young attorneys who, like JDdoingMD, choose to take early training opportunities, a teaching law firm will pay less than a big firm but train young attorneys while also serving and underserved market and teaching law students who come through the firm. It is a theory. It may not work. But as law schools evolve this may be an experiment someone tries.

    Again thanks to all and I look forward to more feedback.

    Best

    Deven

  17. MDdoingJD says:

    Hi Deven: Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    1. “For someone who wants critical thinking this idea [think like a lawyer] should make sense.” “Thinking like a lawyer” is a fine idea, but I am tired of law academics smugly talking about it and then doing nothing to EXPLICITLY advance the process at my law school. At my law school, we call what the professors are doing “hiding the ball.” I do not know if students at other schools call it that.

    2. In medical school, my patient interactions included but were not limited to interviewing, physically examining, blood drawing, x-ray reading, performing lumbar punctures, doing chest compressions during “codes”, etc. A few times as a student, I even made diagnoses that no one else had made. As a resident and fellow, my clinical experiences became more refined and, of course, I made more original diagnoses. My clinical experiences were varied and NOT anomalous for other MDs and MDs in training at my training institutions. Maybe, my institutions were unusual, but I doubt it.

    “Nonetheless, I know many of my friends encountered the tension between great training and research reputation in tertiary settings.” I intentionally chose the best training situations with “good enough” research reputations.

    3. “[T]his idea of needing to wake up with an answer is vague. Why does this idea matter for this discussion?” The idea is NOT vague to an MD. I can be awakened from a sound sleep at 3 AM and using the information from a non-specialist make a diagnosis and treatment plan to save someone’s life. This point goes to the heart of why MDs need more clinical training than JDs. What it adds to the discussion is that while JDs need some clinical training before being let loose on the world, it is not as much clinical training as JDs need.

    4. “I am not saying all law students would go through the teaching hospital. It would an additional, different offering for experiential learning.” Why shouldn’t all law students and newly minted JDs have some clinical training before being let loose on the world?

    5. All medical students do a rotation through general medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, OB/GYN, and psychiatry — shared clinical experience. The analagous clinical experience for law students would be for everyone to rotate through a court trying a case, through an office doing transactional work, etc.

    “Please stop conflating the two and writing as if that is what I am saying.” I have no clue why you have written this sentence. I have tried to add an MD training perspective to the discussion. I have done the MD training. You have not.

    From your original post: “Yes, I am suggesting that the idea that medical students’ clinical work is vastly superior to the externships, clinics, and the like that many law students undertake is a myth.” I disagreed with this sentence when I read it the first time, and I still disagree with it now.

    Thank you for your time and consideration of alternative viewpoints. I am done with this discussion.

  18. A.J. Sutter says:

    Hi Deven, thanks for your reply, but some of your comments are quite inappropriate. Speaking as a 50-something attorney now in solo practice who’s been outside the big firm and in-house circuit for the past 5 years or so, and who has also has been devoting a good chunk of time to writing on legal and business topics and university lecturing during that time, there is absolutely nothing cynical or ironic about my suggestions. You should be more careful about the tone of your reply. Perhaps one of your colleagues on this blog has written something about semantic and affective indeterminacies inherent in Internet communication, in which case it might be good to review it.

    As for mentoring, that’s a very hit-or-miss proposition. I was extremely fortunate in my first job to be working one-on-one with the head of my firm, which was a big one for its day. Had I begun at either of the next couple of places where I worked, I’d have had a much shakier foundation, and my immediate boss at my first in-house job was a disaster (though I had some great colleagues). One thing your idea has going for it is that it should attract attorneys who actually like mentoring.

    So then the tougher trick might be to hit the right balance in attracting deals that will be helpful to a young attorney. For those who aspire to big firm practice, there might be a vicious dialectic at work. On the one hand, a hiring firm won’t necessarily be impressed by work on cases irrelevant to their practice or that is basically grunt work like due diligence. (Mainly, they’re going to hire on the basis of law school and personality, anyway.) On the other hand, if the student does get to work on something more relevant and interesting, once he or she gets to the big firm of their dreams they’re most likely going to be tasked with diligence grunt work anyway. So they may get frustrated even sooner than do most junior associates. Not that that’s a strong argument against transactional work at a teaching firm, just a cautionary one.

  19. Deven says:

    Andrew

    I have responded to you privately as you chose to write to me in that manner. Still as you hve posted here in short, you seem to be assuming that I have no real world experience. That view is unfounded. The irony is that I went right into practice and was in the working world as it were for eight years in a few different jobs within the law and law-related fields so I do have a sense of the people who may work at such a firm. And I have been in small settings as well as large settings.

    Insofar as tone matters I suggest that this writing:

    Where would the partners (or however you want to characterize the professionals who would need to supervise student activities) come from? Law professors? Excuse me, but many of you folks don’t have a lot of practical experience yourselves. Retired lawyers, mid- or late-career lawyers who find themselves out of work? Partners as adjuncts from law firms?

    belies your position about politeness or tone.

    All that being said let’s move on shall we? I think there have been some crossed wires while we both think there may be a way this idea could fly (depending on many variables nonetheless).

    Overall, yes the type of work will be difficult. I think you are correct that what type of work will help an attorney the most will be a key issue. Litigation may be more amenable to the idea. And yes your point about not re-inventing the grunt work later makes sense. I think it goes to a structural question about whether law firms offer the work that as you say one dreams of and the reality of the corporate firm. Tough are to consider and I have no idea whether that will change.

    As a related note, given your interest in the topic, this cross-post of the entry and the first comment may be worth your time.

    http://madisonian.net/archives/2008/03/27/thought-experiment-why-not-a-teaching-law-firm-to-increase-experiential-learning/#comments

    The author notes how England addresses the issue and it seems to get into some the details you and I have kicked around.

    Best

    Deven

  20. Deven says:

    MDdoingJD

    First and foremost I am sorry to hear that you find law school hides the ball. I do not, repeat, do not question that you have had this experience. I sincerely offer that you may contact me if you want help on this point. I try not to do that to students and take extra time to talk through what thinking like a lawyer is and how to do it with them. Given your continued engagement and contribution I would be happy and honored to try and help if you would like.

    Second, I do think your experience was less common. I have interviewed many friends who went to a range of medical schools. I pressed about whether they had the experiences you had. Uniformly the response was infrequently and it depends on the factors involved (doctor, hospital, approach to med school). I was not saying that good training institutions have poor research. Rather I think you had a touch choice as some hold that the two do not work well. Further it reminded me of the choices friends faced between focus on research and ability to get hands on work as they chose future training.

    Ah I see what you mean about the training before being let loose in the world. It may be that you and I agree that amounts of training of necessity will be different. But as that had been said by you and me and then you and then me, I lost the plot as to what it was connected to (sorry if the Sprockets joke failed).

    As for why not all being trained? I am not saying they should or should not. I am not sure that the U.S. legal system is ready for it or how to move to that model. If you think it should move to that model, you may be 100% correct. I don’t claim to know that yet. As you seem to believe in the idea, I really do encourage you to take up the cause at some point. That kind of drive can lead to changes. Also the comment here

    http://madisonian.net/archives/2008/03/27/thought-experiment-why-not-a-teaching-law-firm-to-increase-experiential-learning/#comments

    speaks to your question. It details how England approaches the issue. Preview: Closer to the mandatory training idea.

    Moving on, so medical students get to rotate through the basic areas and yes that is what might work for law students. That is why I suggest a teaching law firm might have benefits: it would facilitate exactly that idea. You can disagree of course but my point was that medical school if more formal and perhaps better organized than law school in its clinical approach. But many law schools through clinics, externships, trail practice and so on, offer a similar level of exposure but in nowhere near the way you experienced in medical school. So I think we agree that some level of improved training could work at law school, the two are not the same, and exactly what that will look like will depend on resources. One resource that is lacking for law schools is a teaching practice similar to the teaching hospital.

    Best

    Deven

  21. A.J. Sutter says:

    I agree that wires were crossed and have responded off-blog. For the record, though: I did check your webpage before posting, and nothing in my comment should have suggested anything in personam. Moreover, since I have been myself among the “retired lawyers, mid- or late-career lawyers who find themselves out of work,” etc. from time to time in my career, there was absolutely nothing to belie. Anyone who thinks such a group of people should be looked down on is tempting Fate. My point was in fact that they could be a good resource.

  22. Deven says:

    Well heck is all I can say A.J. You and I seem to have been through various incarnations as attorneys and see them in perahps a similar light. All of which makes this misunderstanding a bit odd and perahps ironic if not funny in retrospect.

    Again thanks for sticking with the conversation and the thoughts to improve the idea.

    Best

    Deven

  23. Deven says:

    Just had a long and great chat with A.J. Thanks, A.J. It was a pleasure.

    Now to bed.

    good night all

    best

    Deven

    PS Love Skype and the wonders of connecting with people even in Japan. I know old hat on the Internet, but still it is wonderful stuff.

  24. A.J. Sutter says:

    The pleasure was mine. Thanks for your call, Deven.