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With laptops out and copies of Milton C. Regan Jr.’s Eat What You Kill on the boardroom-like table, Mark Alderman’s class at the University of Pennsylvania Law School was ready to begin. The 2Ls and 3Ls have already taken constitutional law and contracts. With 15 of the 16 students joining law firms larger than the one Alderman heads up – Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen – they signed up for the first semester of his class to learn what law firm life is really like. “The Law of Law Firms” was the brainchild of Alderman and Penn Law Dean Michael A. Fitts. The course was originally set up to look at law firm management from the top down, but Alderman said the students quickly pointed out that most firms are made up of more associates than partners. Now, classes focus on what associates go through in big firms, he said. So far, the course – mainly discussion-based, with little in the way of formal lesson plans – has examined the issues of compensation, governance, conflicts, multi-office jurisdictions and business development. At each class, a few students give presentations on the partnership structures, compensation, geographic reach and culture of the firms they are joining. One student said that while the Los Angeles office of his firm pays “only” $145,000 for first-year associates, he liked the laid-back atmosphere on the West Coast. Beyond the salary issue, which Alderman quickly puts into perspective from the firm management point-of-view, the class discusses the ethics and culture of large law firm life through books and articles that examine what effect working in firms might have on a young attorney. Enter Eat What You Kill: The Fall of a Wall Street Lawyer. While Alderman’s class is still in its infancy, he said the concept “is less unique than it sounds.” He said it might, however, be new to the Philadelphia region. A January report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching titled Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law brings attention to the need for law schools to expand beyond the Socratic method of reviewing case studies. The report said legal education is limited and pays little attention to training for professional practice. “The result is to prolong and reinforce the habits of thinking like a student rather than an apprentice practitioner, conveying the impression that lawyers are more like competitive scholars than attorneys engaged with the problems of clients,” according to the study’s executive summary. While the report recognized that improvements in legal education have been made over the last 50 years, it said the changes have been “more piecemeal than comprehensive.” Some less-traditional law school programs have received more respect than others in the academic community. Drexel University College of Law created its Legal Writing Program, led by Arlin M. Adams Professor of Legal Writing Terry Seligmann, to be run and taught by tenured or tenure-track professors. “We value this as much as any other subject that we’re teaching,” acting Dean Jennifer L. Rosato said. As the business of law firms evolves, Rosato said there is less mentoring and less time for firms to teach their new associates how to write. “By now, every law school understands that writing is an important skill,” she said. Despite the increased recognition, Rosato said there is still a struggle at law schools over how many resources can be devoted to writing programs over the more traditional courses. Some schools have more senior students teaching lowerclassmen how to write, and others use adjunct or contract professors, she said. That in turn gives students the perception that the class isn’t as important because there isn’t a tenured-track professor teaching it, she said. Legal writing professors are often treated as “second-class citizens” in the world of academia, and the programs are often referred to as “the pink ghetto” because the professors are mainly women, and the classes are often given fewer resources than tradional courses, Rosato said. That is changing, she said, as firms press for graduates who can write, and law schools dedicate more resources to writing programs. Marketing consultant Mary Beth Pratt said she hopes classes like hers will one day become part of the offered curriculum. Pratt started teaching a class this semester to 3Ls at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law titled “Legal, Professional and Business Aspects of Law Practices.” The 13 students are split up into four groups that create mock law firms. They have to write up a partnership agreement and create financial, human resources, marketing and business development plans. Speakers come in to discuss topics ranging from case-management software to client relations. “I would hope that it would become a regular elective that was part of the overall curriculum,” Pratt said of the course. As law schools continue to adapt to changes in the legal profession, Pratt said she thinks that more nontraditional courses will be offered. The next generation of lawyers is looking for something different from the profession than the generations before it, she said. “I would hope that the profession as a whole . . . would really begin to say ‘how do we preserve the best of the profession and yet prepare it for future generations?’” Pratt said. Although courses on law practice management haven’t achieved the same acceptance on a broader scale as legal writing programs, there are law schools that have integrated the courses into the annual curriculum. When preparing for her class, Pratt learned that Pace University School of Law professor Gary A. Munneke had already written a textbook on law practice management by the same title. The text is currently in its second edition, and Munneke teaches an elective that is based on the book at the school. Munneke said he has been teaching the course since 1982 while at Widener University School of Law’s Wilmington, Del., campus. He moved to Pace University in 1988. He said Widener still offers a similar course. There are only about 50 law schools in the country that offer some sort of law practice management course, and that number has been fairly static over the last decade, he said. What has changed, Munneke said, is the implementation of more practice skills into the clinical programs. That might mean ensuring students learn how to close out a file when they are done with a case, he said. While the number of schools offering firm management courses may not have increased, Munneke said the idea is becoming mover prevalent for several reasons. The practice of law has become more complicated, clients want recent grads to be up-to-speed more quickly, and there is a greater risk of being sued for malpractice, he said. All of this leads to a need for firms to manage themselves more effectively, he said. Those needs could be what cause that group of 50 law schools to grow, as classes like Alderman’s and Pratt’s take shape. Detroit Mercy School of Law launched a pilot program this semester known as the Law Firm Program, and it has 18 students enrolled, according to a report by The Legal‘s sister publication, the National Law Journal. Starting next year, it will require all of its 180 third-year students to complete at least four credits in the Law Firm Program. Students will be able to take up to 26 credits in the program, which use the same numeric grading system as in most of the school’s other courses. “I think law schools are adding more and more practical courses, usually clinical, to their curriculum,” Alderman said. He said his might be the kind of course “whose time has come.”

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