Friday, August 1, 2014

Dean Chemerinsky: Law School More Important than Ever, Helps Cure Cancer

America's foremost legal education advocate, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, has a piece in the New York Times as part of a debate about lawyer apprenticing.  It's full of wisdom and insight into the importance of formalized legal education, which one would expect from a public servant who has eschewed high-paying work to run a public law school.

Of all the quotes, this is probably my favorite:
[N]o supervising lawyer can begin to approximate the breadth and depth of knowledge of a law school faculty.
Indeed.  My law school's faculty had at least two professors who may, at one time, have appeared in a courtroom representing a client.  Two is more than one, dog.  Plus, like, fifteen Supreme Court clerks.

Here's another:
If you or a loved one were found to have cancer, would you want oncologists and surgeons who were educated at top universities and then were trained by experts, or ones who learned medicine entirely through apprenticeships?
To be honest with you, I want EVERYONE trained at a top university.  Why is my HVAC guy only trained through apprenticeship?  My breakfast cafe chef?  The foreign people who do my dry cleaning; they've never stepped in a place like UC-Irvine.  How are they supposed to appreciate the nuances of fabric and the chemical compositions of the products they use?  How is my breakfast chef supposed to think like a chef when he never went to school?  How is my HVAC guy supposed to understand the dynamics of air and cooling which are obviously more complex than they were sixty years ago now that we're building with space materials and such?  I love answering rhetorical questions with even more aggressive rhetorical questions.

Here's another:
...the reality is that [law schools] do an excellent job of teaching basic skills that all lawyers need to know: how to analyze legal issues, how to read cases and statutes and regulations, how to develop legal arguments, how to do legal research and writing.
Why, yes, those four things seem to sum up the entirety of basic skills all lawyers need to know.  I am incredibly grateful that under my formal legal education, I learned those four things - and in only three years.

I would keep posting quotes, but I don't want to steal the Dean's thunder while simultaneously serving those among the scamblog crowd who have a sadomasochist streak.


  1. Erwin Chemerinsky's "analysis" is so weak that one wonders whether he is deliberately dense or if he is indeed a mildly retarded John Malkovich.

  2. I also liked this quote, indicating that the apprenticeship model cannot provide the practical wisdom to be gained via a pricey three-year JD program:

    "Nor can apprenticeships provide the beneficial knowledge that comes from an interdisciplinary university education. Corporate lawyers are well served learning about economics and business. Criminal lawyers benefit from knowledge about psychology. Environmental lawyers gain from knowing about public policy."

    Now, this being the digital age, that concern could be addressed by having persons in legal apprenticeship programs audit online courses and do required reading in psychology, economics, and public policy-- you know, courses taught by real specialists, not by law professor dilettantes. Or by requiring kids to spend at least one year of grad school prior to enrolling in a legal apprentice program and to produce their own interdisciplinary scholarship.

    Chem doesn't like it, but there are alternatives to submerging law students in debt in order to provide six-figure salaries and perks galore to 17,000 lawprofs and law deans who often have shockingly meager actual legal experience.

  3. Hmm..but for the Good Dean, every law school-mine included-made a point of emphasizing that we were trained to do everything but practice law. The ole Socratic method isn't much help when it comes time to draft a will(ok there's software for that now, but that's another story).
    And, er, after two years of intense classroom work, years 3 & 4 of medical school are spent doing rotations/apprenticeships. Then there's residency, which is, again, apprenticeship-physically, mentally, and intellectually daunting, but an apprenticeship nonetheless(Aka "residency").
    the only thing the Good Dean cares about is his vanity-project and his enormous paycheck courtesy of taxpayers and Federal loans. He's either totally out of touch with both how law school professors "teach" or he just doesn't care.