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Fresh from two clerkships and plenty of hard work in law school, I arrived at the Justice Department at the age of 27 determined to make a difference. In the five preceding years, I had learned that late hours, diligent research and strong articulation were the path to influencing the course of the law. But for many months in my new job, I got nowhere. Law schools today teach people how to argue, how to research and how to think about rules. All this is fine and good, but they do not teach people how to work together in groups. In fact, they studiously avoid such lessons. Instead, the message is always an individualistic one. A student, alone, is called on by a professor in class. She or he is to answer the question without assistance (assistance by classmates generally produces smirks). The student generally studies for exams alone and eventually takes them alone. Group projects are virtually unknown in law schools today. Contrast that with business schools, many of which design their curricula around group activities and projects that instruct students in the difficult and nuanced skills of working with others. Virtually every day, law school sent me the message that to succeed I had to work as an island unto myself. Most of my professors had never worked in any substantial capacity with other people. Law schools today still reward professors on the basis of their individual publications (many law schools even frown upon co-authored papers). But exceedingly few law students will enter the world of legal academia. Instead, they will work in law firms, government offices or other areas in which people skills will be at a premium. And doing well on law school examinations does not necessarily translate into being a great lawyer. In fact, hiring partners at major law firms repeatedly say that they use grades and r�sum�s to make a rough first cut, but that they make their real hiring decisions on the basis of who will make good colleagues and work well with others. Yet students, responding to the signals that the law schools themselves send, continue to believe that getting good grades alone will guarantee them the job of their choice. The current model of legal education remains tethered to the myth that lawyers work in formal courtrooms (probably appellate ones), where the name of the game is making arguments based on reasoned deliberation. But most lawyers today work in boardrooms and meeting rooms. And in those places, having a great point is at most only half the battle; it is a necessary but by no means sufficient way to win. I saw this firsthand at the Justice Department, where I was fortunate to benefit from the gentle guidance of the then-deputy attorney general, Eric Holder Jr. He saw how I took a great set of legal arguments in my first few weeks on the job, but failed to convince anyone of them. After watching senior Justice officials, I began to get a sense for the people side of legal reasoning and persuasion. And I remembered the lesson after leaving the Justice Department. In an attempt to bridge the divide between law school and law practice, I have introduced group projects into my teaching. Every few weeks, for example, a set of students in my criminal law class must write and perform skits about the legal issues we study. The skits bring the legal issues to life and force the students to work in a manner that more closely emulates actual lawyers. And in so doing, it generates friendships, occasional frictions, and heated discussions — just as in real life. By encouraging students to work together, law schools can not only better prepare our students for the real challenges of practicing law, but also begin to break the image of lawyers as self-interested individuals who care about nothing more than themselves. Law schools cannot make these things happen, but they can at least try to catalyze them. After all, isn’t everyone in law school — teachers and students alike — trying to train the best lawyers possible? Neal Kumar Katyal, a professor of law at Georgetown University, is currently a visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School.

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