Practicing Law, Studying Law, and Teaching Law

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5 Responses

  1. I don’t necessarily agree with everything you say here, but this is an insightful post.

  2. JrL says:

    Isn’t this just the natural progression of the law schools’ dislike for teachers with substantial practice experience. (And I’m not at all sure that 8 years can qualify as substantial, though it’s certainly better than many law profs….)

  3. Bruce Boyden says:

    JrL, I think you’re right — at least from what I’ve heard. (My current employer is perhaps atypically practice-friendly.) At least two questions arise from this trend. One is whether legal education will suffer; I think the answer is yes, but there’s room for debate on that as I noted above. A second is what the cause is. I don’t think it’s irrational prejudice, as some have suggested. Rather, I suspect the story is one of rational responses to the market for law schools, like the one spelled out by Larry Solum in his post. I’ll summarize Larry’s post as best I can: Law profs are evaluated primarily on scholarship. Scholarship requires training in scholarship. All else being equal, practicing lawyers get less scholarly training, because (schools are now concluding) scholarship and practice do not overlap. Therefore, schools will have an incentive to hire those with more scholarly training and less practical experience.

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    I definitely agree that it won’t be better for students. There’s another constituency that will be hurt by these developments too: clients.

    As law professors get farther removed from practice, young lawyers will have fewer role models and fewer war stories. Sure they might get those once they start working, but sooner or later (if our fears come to pass) their mentors too will come from a generation that had significantly less contact with practitioners during their formative years. By then the lawyer’s equivalent of “bedside manner” will be far more attenuated than it is currently.

    Moreover, not all law students turn into litigators. If even an 8-year practitioner like you is emphasizing litigation, consider how impossible it will be for a non-practicing Ph.D. to imagine transactional practice, much less to have anything insightful to say about it.

  5. Bruce Boyden says:

    AJ, as you can probably tell, *I* have trouble imagining transactional practice, although I try my best to remember that not all of my students will be litigators. Since cases by and large focus on litigation issues, and not client-counseling or drafting or negotiation-strategy issues, I think you’re right that transactional work is even more difficult to understand without having practiced.