Law schools, to paraphrase the fictional Professor Kingsfield, take students who know next to nothing about law, and teach them to “think like lawyers.” But a rough understanding of the methods of legal analysis does not necessarily equip budding lawyers with all the skills required for success in practice. Most importantly, although the ability to interpret rules of ethical conduct is one important element of the law school curriculum, mere familiarity with the rules of professional responsibility cannot impart sensitivity to the ethical issues that can arise in practice (much less ensure that new lawyers will place a high priority on maintaining essential standards of professional behavior). The recent Carnegie Report, an independent external review of law school teaching practices which compared legal education with other forms of professional training, emphasized the need to impart basic skills to lawyers before they enter practice, but also expressed concerns about producing lawyers who lack a commitment to professional responsibility. These concerns, moreover, have appeared in a series of prior studies and reports.
The question thus arises anew: how can law schools produce “good” lawyers? Recent scholarship and experiments at several law schools suggest an array of potential solutions (big and small), several of which are outlined here. The bigger underlying question, however, addressed at the conclusion of this Article, is: when will law school change (on a broader basis)? When will law schools incorporate, more fully, the kinds of changes that can ensure that new lawyers approach their careers equipped with a spirit of professionalism, competence and integrity, and with a genuine drive to demonstrate ethical behavior in all of their actions as attorneys? No magic solutions appear, but at least one essential component of change must involve demand, by the profession itself, for increased focus on ethics and professionalism. As this Article concludes, the recent economic down-turn may provide a significant catalyst for such change.
Steven C. Bennett,
When Will Law School Change?,
89 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol89/iss1/3