Sunday, May 16, 2010

Are Three Years of Law School Necessary?

I was reading the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog yesterday. There was a piece on US News & World Report's ranking of law schools. I look upon these rankings the way I look upon Page Six of the New York Post: very titillating but it does not affect me one iota. But what really got me thinking was the outrageous cost of a legal education nowadays. Regardless of what school you attend, tuition is between 30 and 40 thousand a year. Add room and board and you end up shelling out almost 60k a year. I know what I make a year and what most every day lawyers you see in the courthouse make and when you factor in the number of hours you spend pulling your hair out and paying bills, it just is not worth it. And then I started recalling my last two years in law school. Other than the naive undergrads I was able to date and the excessive drinking I did while dating them, the time spent there was by and large wasted. I learned everything I needed to know in the first year. Let's face it. Legal education is a racket that benefits one group of pompous frauds: professors. I despised all of them. In the late 70's and early 80's, you could spot them a mile away. Longish hair that was starting to gray or recede, earth shoes, and a sort of walk and attitude that was meant to advertise their pedigree: Ivy League or some equivalent degree combined with a position on law review and post graduate work with a federal or state supreme court judge and/or one year at a top notch law firm. They were all radical chic type leftists who I suspected adopted the mantra more to get laid than anything else. I also suspected that that one or two year stint in private practice was not a stepping stone to a teaching career but a disastrous attempt to cash in on their newly minted status only to be shown the exit for thinking their shit did not stink. In any event, it is these supercilious popinjays who suck on the tit of legal education. But it need not be that way. The entire law school curriculum should consist of the following courses:
1. Contracts/UCC
2. Criminal law/procedure
3. Torts
4. Civil Procedure/federal jurisdiction
5. Legal writing
6. Appellate advocacy
7. Real estate transactions
8. Corporations/Business entities.
This program could be completed in one calendar year. Once you graduate, you would have to take a state bar exam that would require a detailed knowledge of state law and procedure. Thus in Florida, you would have to know how to do a real estate closing, file a lawsuit, draft a contract, and write a brief. These courses could be taken on line so long as you demonstrated a proficiency through a written examination afterwards. Once you pass the bar, you are on your own. You can set up your own shop, work for whoever wants to hire you, or do nothing. Law schools would be one year and out institutions that trained lawyers to be, well, lawyers. The losers? The legal education establishment. There would be no such thing as Law Review. But so what and who cares? Law review articles are unreadable compilations of legal mumbo jumbo that are written to perpetuate the careers of intellectual dullards who could not tell the difference between a courtroom and the men's room. The beneficiaries would be the lawyers who could get licensed at a fraction of the cost and the public for whom prices would decline substantially. I doubt very much that the quality of lawyering would decline at all. I doubt there is one lawyer in the country who can credit his success to the fact that he learned anything worthwhile in years 2 and 3. People would be free, as they are now, to select their own lawyer. I just think we need to recognize that three years of law school is a needless expense. The cost and requirements have no relation to being a good lawyer.


  1. Nice site, very informative. I like to read this.,it is very helpful in my part for my criminal law studies.

  2. I for one think that I needed my 2L and 3L years to become a more mature person who would then be ready to practice. However, I do not appreciate the incredible debt I racked up during that time and I have to agree 100% with you on that point. Also, I find your course list to be almost comprehensive, but I think we should teach some type of litigation skills course too.
    Although I agree that the every day lawyer's talent and quality of work would hardly be affected by one year of schooling, I think it is important to encourage the environment of learning and inquisitiveness that is generally fostered by those law review articles (even if it is for the two or three people who actually read them).
    Interestingly enough, I worked in England as a law clerk after my 1L year. Your proposal is almost exactly what is already in place there. You take one year of law school after university (which is 3 years btw), and then you essentially apprentice yourself to another solicitor or barrister. It seems to work well there and, actually, promotes more specialization.