The high cost of attending law school amidst a belt-tightening economy raises many questions about the value of a tuition dollar—among them, what does one actually learn for $150,000? A recent story in The New York Times takes up the matter of how practical lawyering is—and, more pointedly, isn’t—taught by full-time academics, and how those costs weigh on students, firms, and in-house legal departments.
David Segal, who writes often on the economics of law school for the Times, reports that:
The essential how-tos of daily practice are a subject that many in the faculty know nothing about—by design. One 2010 study of hiring at top-tier law schools since 2000 found that the median amount of practical experience was one year, and that nearly half of faculty members had never practiced law for a single day. If medical schools took the same approach, they’d be filled with professors who had never set foot in a hospital.
Students wind up footing the bill for tenure-track faculty to focus on their own academic pursuits rather than their pupils’ professional development, Segal reports. Then, as firms bring on (debt-saddled) new hires and train them on practical matters, they pass those costs onto corporate clients in the form of billable rates—not the most popular model among in-house legal departments:
So, for decades, clients have essentially underwritten the training of new lawyers, paying as much as $300 an hour for the time of associates learning on the job. But the downturn in the economy, and long-running efforts to rethink legal fees, have prompted more and more of those clients to send a simple message to law firms: Teach new hires on your own dime.
“The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors,” says Jeffrey W. Carr, the general counsel of FMC Technologies, a Houston company that makes oil drilling equipment. “They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.”
This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.
To view this content, please continue to their sites.
LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.
For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]