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Legal education is in need of reform. It has been that way for many years, but the felt need is greater as the information age has caught up with law schools. Market forces are leading to greater transparency in assessing legal education. Students are better informed and more savvy in the selection of law schools. The academic discourse now regularly includes discussions of how law schools should be ranked, how faculty productivity should be measured and how students should assess the value of a particular school. Additionally, recruiters are more vocal about the needs of the marketplace and their expectations of law graduates. These are good developments, for the disclosure of relevant information is a good thing. The question is no longer: Can law schools continue with education as is? Rather, it is: What will the eventual reforms look like? I suggest that law schools can learn a good deal from their academic cousins, business schools. Each discipline is different, and thus a comparison has limits. That said, both are professional schools with a mission to teach a set of skills required by overlapping markets. Based on my experiences as a student in law school and business school, and now a law school professor, I wish to highlight two differences. First, the traditional M.B.A. program is best described as tight and focused. Unlike law school, it lasts only two years. The first year is typically a required core of management, finance, accounting, operations and marketing; the second year is devoted to a concentration in one of these areas. In these two years, students learn a package of essential skills and they are “market ready.” Importantly, business schools do a good job of communicating with recruiters and the market in general, and tailoring the package of skills to fit the need. Compare that program with the typical law school program. The first year of law school is also a fixed program of core courses, but the second two years are largely amorphous. What is the justification for three years of law school? To the extent that law schools seek to teach students how to read cases and statutes and construct the law in a particular field, two years is sufficient time to acquire important analytic skills. To justify the third year, law schools, like business schools, could require a structured concentration. This could be an expertise in a particular skill set, for example trial advocacy or transactional law, or an expertise in a particular area of the law. A concentrated course of study would make efficient use of the second two years of law school, and would better meet the demand of legal recruiters for more “practice ready” graduates. Second, the teaching methods are very different. The teaching methods at business schools are a mix of traditional lecture, case-study analysis, experiential learning and mandated group work. Lectures convey difficult theories; case-study analysis applies theory to elaborately designed problems simulating the complexities of the real world; and experiential learning provides valuable lessons in application of theory and the importance of “soft” skills. Teamwork, leadership and social skills are assessed through group projects, and students are held accountable for group work. The emphasis is on honing multifaceted problem-solving skills. Contrast this with law school. The teaching methodology is the Socratic method and, increasingly, lecture. Clinical experience provides fine practical training, but in most schools clinics are voluntary. There is no question that the Socratic method sharpens legal analytic skills. Beyond this, however, skill acquisition depends largely on the random process of course selection and the professor’s teaching method. The study of law is too often a monastic pursuit, whereas the business of law is always a group effort. Skills other than case and statutory analyses are needed, and the teaching methods should facilitate their development. Law schools can do a better job of incorporating group work, case-study analysis and experiential-learning methods into the structural fabric of the curriculum. In my experience as a student in both business and law schools, the above differences were the most apparent. The pros and cons are clear. In a broad sense, law schools seek to provide a broad array of course offerings and a supermarket approach to the curriculum. The wonderful advantage is the student freedom in curricular choice. Yet students are not in the best position to evaluate the required skills of the job marketplace. Moreover, an increased focus on concentrations means that the typical law school cannot be all things to all students. Some schools are big enough and have sufficient resources, but many may not. Thus an increased focus on concentrations may lead to specialization of law schools. Some schools may develop a reputation for, say, producing fine international lawyers, while another school earns a reputation for producing general practitioners. In the end, this may not be such a bad thing, either. There are approximately 200 American law schools, and perhaps the student’s choice of school � a monumental one in terms of time and money � should not be relegated to just a magazine’s national rankings, financial considerations and location. Robert J. Rhee is an associate professor ( designate) at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore. This piece originally appeared in The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate.

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