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Deans Not So Impressed With Harvard 1L Curriculum:
The National Law Journal has an interesting article on how Deans at several top law schools are reacting to Harvard's requirement of a first-year courses on international law and regulation. Turns out they aren't particularly enthusiastic. An excerpt:
Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer said his school. . . has decided to follow a more traditional approach in its first-year curriculum and to leave the other courses for the second and third years of law school.

"The first year is the one year that works," he said. "It is rather bizarre that, in general, law schools have focused on reforming the first year when the problems and failures in the curriculum are all in the second and third years."

Harvard decided to modify its first-year curriculum because of the "imprint" that the initial year of study has on law students, said Martha Minow, a Harvard Law School professor who spearheaded its curriculum reform project.

"To postpone introduction to legislation and regulation is to communicate to students that it's an add-on. To postpone introduction to international law is to say 'that's for later,' " she said.

Minow also said that the changes at other schools influenced Harvard's revisions. "We are simply enacting what a lot of people have talked about and what a lot of people have done in pieces," she said.

Although Northwestern University School of Law recently altered its first-year legal research and writing course to include a broader communications and legal-reasoning component, it does not plan to change markedly its 1L curriculum, said the school's dean, David Van Zandt.

"I'm not a big fan of what Harvard's done," he said.
  I'm not sure I'm persuaded by Professor Minow's theory that international law and regulatory courses should be required 1L courses to "imprint" their importance. First, I don't know how much of an "imprint" 1L year courses actually make. My guess is that most students tend to forget the substance of their 1L courses more quickly than their later courses, both because they are further away in time and because the 1L year tends to be so stressful.

  I'm also not sure that locating a course in the first year vs. the second year sends a particularly strong signal. Constitutional law is a second year course at Harvard, but that doesn't communicate to Harvard students that constitutional law is an unimportant topic that's "for later." If anything, I wonder if the opposite may be true: requiring a course after the first year may signal that a course is so important that you have to study it when you have the basic courses down and can fully understand and appreciate its importance.
John (mail):
Imprint? I guess those Harvard kids really are geese looking for their law mommies.
10.24.2006 1:50am
Kate1999 (mail):
John,

Don't forget that the Harvard faculty believes strongly in social engineering. As long as the social engineers are people like them, of course.
10.24.2006 2:03am
Cornellian (mail):
Teaching international law in first year is just dumb, dumb, dumb. Ditto for "regulatory courses" if by that they mean administrative law. It's like they've completely lost sight of how clueless incoming law students are about even the most basic of legal concepts, concepts without which they won't even begin to understand anything that's being taught in admin law, let alone international law.
10.24.2006 3:34am
Cornellian (mail):
"To postpone introduction to legislation and regulation is to communicate to students that it's an add-on.

So what does that say about every upper class course, which is not only postponed, but also optional? I thought law students regarded the upper class courses as the interesting ones they actually wanted to take, and the first year courses were the less interesting ones they took because they were required. Is anyone really that interested in property law?

To postpone introduction to international law is to say 'that's for later,' " she said.

Well duh, that would seem to follow, virtually by definition.
10.24.2006 3:37am
A.C.:
Hey, I liked property! Why does everyone gang up on that one class? Contracts was the bore for me.
10.24.2006 6:18am
Native American Lawyer (mail):
Imprint? I guess those Harvard kids really are geese looking for their law mommies.


John, it's clear you're behind the times. You should know that this comes from the new cutting edge field of "Law and Evolutionary Psychobabble." It's the latest thing.
10.24.2006 6:43am
Ambrose (mail):
One problem with putting legislation and regulation in the first year is that stuff changes so fast that come graduation the whole thing may have changed. If it's been more than six months since you read a relevant statute or reg., you better read it again. Come to think on it, you better just read it again period.
10.24.2006 7:58am
Oris (mail) (www):
Imprint? Oh, please. I barely remember most of first year, and that was just five years ago. I second Cornellian that the 2L and 3L courses are the ones law students look forward to, and that they are important and complex enough that they shouldn't be tackled by someone whose most in-depth legal knowledge comes from watching David E. Kelly shows. The most important thing you learn in first year is how to extract useful knowledge from the gobbledygook that is legal writing.

And as nifty and important as international law may be, the vast majority of us will never see any kind of international law in practice.
10.24.2006 8:16am
anonVCfan:
"Imprinting" is something you do when you doubt the ability of someone else to understand a message delivered by conventional means. Requiring certain courses sounds well and good--"our students will all graduate with international law training"--but it comes at the expense of allowing students to take an additional course of their own choosing. 1L year should focus on the courses students need to understand their 2L and 3L courses. Contracts before corporations, torts before everything, con law before fed courts, etc.

I'm also not sure what the fuss is about international law. Once Justice Kennedy steps down or new appointments marginalize the importance of his vote, they're going to have to tear up this newfangled curriculum and start all over again.
10.24.2006 8:38am
GWLawEugene:
A.C., well I hated both property and contracts!

I agree with most of the above posters that putting international law and admin law in the 1st year curriculum is not a great idea. I feel like 1L is for the base classes (civ pro, contracts) and the theory classes (torts, crim law); not for throwing in heavy-substantive classes. If Harvard really wanted students to come out with an international and admin background, they should just require students to take them sometime during 2L or 3L year. I mean very few people still care by then, but that's more of a structural (not a curriculum) issue.
10.24.2006 8:50am
Anon Y. Mouse:
GWLawEugene distinguishes between "base classes (civ pro, contracts) and the theory classes (torts, crim law)." At Harvard, though, they're *all* theory classes, so it really doesn't matter which comes first.
10.24.2006 9:23am
Debauched Sloth (mail):
My Crim Pro professor was witty, outspoken, and relentlessly profane. Somehow the subject of international law came up during one of his lectures and he said, "OK, here's what you need to know about international law: it's all bullsh*t." Whether that commends it to Harvard's new first-year curriculum is, I suppose, a separate question.
10.24.2006 10:11am
Jack Ryan (mail) (www):
Harvard Law School for many years had an internal political battle ongoing over the character of the faculty. Unfortunately, I read this curriculum change as an indication that the more liberal faction, dominated Critical Legal Studies theorists (a school of thought heavily influenced by Marxist ideas), has won the day. If you want to see the direction the new curriculum may take, take a look at Curriculum B at Georgetown:

Curriculum "B" Courses

Bargain, Exchange, and Liability
6 Semester Hours

Democracy and Coercion
4 Semester Hours

Government Processes
4 Semester Hours

Legal Justice Seminar
3 Semester Hours

Legal Practice: Writing and Analysis
3 Semester Hours

Legal Process and Society
5 Semester Hours

Property In Time
4 Semester Hours

Week One: Law in a Global Context

If you need confirmation of this direction, consider that two of the leading proponents of the adoption of Curriculum B at Georgetown, Professors Mark Tushnet and Bill Eskridge, have just joined the HLS faculty.
10.24.2006 10:39am
Houston Lawyer:
Jack Ryan

How could they possibly have left Gender Law off of that list?
10.24.2006 11:05am
buddingeconomist:
Jack Ryan,

Reminds me a bit (just in its socialistic absurdity) of the first year required courses here.
10.24.2006 11:05am
rbj:
I liked Property too, though nowadays it (and Real Estate) is subsumed to a large degree by contracts. Crim Law was the bore, but that was due to an unmotivated prof.

You need to have the basics down first, before you expand upon them. If Harvard really wanted to be revolutionary, it would do away with the third year altogether.
10.24.2006 11:07am
buddingeconomist:
"If Harvard really wanted to be revolutionary, it would do away with the third year altogether."

Why not the second one too? And maybe they could replace exams with kumbaya time? I think they have lowered their standards far enough, they are an embarrassment.
10.24.2006 11:14am
Colin (mail):
I'm having a hard time figuring out what's so upsetting to Jack Ryan and Houston Lawyer about Georgetown's curriculum. Bargain, Exchange, and Liability? Those liberal dastards!
10.24.2006 11:20am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Could someone who's taken Georgetown's Curriculum B tell us more about exactly what those courses are? My vague understanding, for instance, is that "Bargain, Exchange, and Liability" is chiefly Georgetown's attempt to teach about contracts and torts without treating them as radically different topics that deserve different classes. As Colin points out, there's nothing inherently politically biased about that approach (though of course any clsas, including one with the most mundane of names, can be taught in a biased way). I'd love to hear more about the details.
10.24.2006 11:24am
buddingeconomist:
it was "Democracy and Coercion" that got my attention.
10.24.2006 11:33am
HLStudent:
Don't worry -- actual Harvard Law students are similarly unimpressed with the curriculum change, which was announced with ZERO student input.

I mean, we just pay upwards of $40k a year to be here, doesn't really matter how we think, right?

Fortunately, I'm done with 1L and I'm not looking back.
10.24.2006 11:41am
Mahlon:
Have any of these people actually practiced law? Have they actually interviewed clients, drafted pleadings and entered a courtroom? They're academics who are trying to propagate their species. Teach the law - American law.

Here's an idea: instead of teaching medical students things like anatomy and micro-biology, let's have them take lots of first year courses on escoteric theory. That should do wonders for our healthcare system.
10.24.2006 12:04pm
Shake-N-Bake (www):
Michigan had an international law requirement (called "transnational law") and oftentimes the fact that it was required led many 1Ls to take it as their 2nd semester elective. I took Business Associations (i.e. agency, partnership, corporations) instead, and left transnational until my last semester where I took it pass/fail. Somehow it didn't interest me that much as a soon-to-be patent and trademark guy, as I already knew all about the international treaties that mattered to my future practice.

International law is doable as a 2nd semester 1L class. Putting it first semester would be a really bad idea though -- if they think it's important for students to learn, they won't learn it first semester. If the "regulation" part of the curriculum means Admin law, there's no way the 1L's are ready for that. It's thick enough for a 2L or 3L as it is.
10.24.2006 12:21pm
Visitor Again:
This illustrates the need to change for change's sake, when things are fine as they are. Some things at Harvard Law did need fixing when I was a 1L there in 1965-66; for example, scheduling a a first year class at 9 on Saturday mornings just because it always had been done that way. But the content of the first year courses--civil procedure, contracts, torts, property, criminal law (including procedure) and legal history (half-year only)--needs no changing. Indeed, if there is the need, these same courses can even be used to introduce first year students to concepts of legislation, state regulation and international law--the subjects that are the focus of the proposed first year course revisions. But apparently it is inappropriate to do things the same way they were done 40 years ago, even if they still work well.
10.24.2006 12:28pm
Jeff Mikoni:
As former Section 3 (Curriculum B) 1L, I'm happy to explain the classes briefly.

Bargain, Exchange, and Liability: Combines the study of Contract and Torts as two sides of the same coin: different understandings of legal obligations. Contracts are privately-ordered obligations between specific parties, while the tort regime imposes an external framework of legal obligations over all parties. Two semesters.

Democracy and Coercion: A combination of Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure, including Separation of Powers, 4th/5th Amendment issues, and Substantive Due Process, accompanied by a discuss of how the governmental/legal system influences behavior. One semester.

Government Processes: A class focused on examining how different types of law interact with a single legal issue, rather than how a certain type of law interacts with all legal issues. In our case, we took the issue of increased risk liability and examined it through tort, contract, criminal, and regulatory frameworks, in order to consider how each could and could not address the issue. Includes an introduction to administrative law as part of the discussion of the regulatory state. One semester.

Legal Justice: Jurisprudence. Classical Legal Formalism, through Realism and Process Theory, into the various Gender, Race, and other Critical/deconstructionist theories, and finally Modern Rights Theories (such as Rawls and Epstein). One semester.

Legal Practice: Writing and Analysis: Fairly traditional legal writing and research class. Two semesters.

Legal Process and Society: Civil Procedure. Two semesters.

Property In Time: Property, with an increased focused on the historical evolution of property law as opposed to most of the bar-exam-style property issues. One semester.
10.24.2006 12:33pm
Diversity for All:
Here's an idea: instead of teaching medical students things like anatomy and micro-biology, let's have them take lots of first year courses on escoteric theory. That should do wonders for our healthcare system.

I think it's important for the global economy to make sure first-year medical students study subjects like Animist Health Care, Drug-free Surgery the Aboriginal Way, and Foucault on Podiatry. It's narrow-minded and patriachal to insist that American medicine science is superior, as implied by the typical first-year med school curriculum in the United States.
10.24.2006 12:40pm
Colin (mail):
Sounds innovative and innocuous. I suspect that, despite all the hand-wringing and tinny outrage, HLS's new curriculum isn't all that big a deal either, even for those who think that there's no such thing as international law.

Maybe it's just me, but Government Processes sounds like a fantastic course (depending on the issue chosen, I suppose) for a 1L. Property in Time sounds like it might be interesting for a week or two, and explosively dull the rest of the semester.
10.24.2006 12:57pm
Colin (mail):
DfA,

I can see how some of the ill-informed comments here might have led you to believe that Harvard is now forcing all students to take an intensive Why We Should All Adopt Zimbabwe's Laws on Land Use and Press Freedom course. It's actually not that big a deal, and even the most anti-internationalist students can (as I understand it) take a class in international transactional law, which is on the practical side. Might be boring, but that's a risk you take in law school.

Frankly, I think Biglaw might appreciate the innovation as much as academia. We'll see; it wouldn't be innovation if the outcome were totally predictable. (Except partisan complaints; those probably were totally predictable.) I'd think that counsel on complex issues should have a broad view of legal context, including a basic understanding of how other systems approach similar problems. Of course, what a 1L course will really teach is something more like how to learn how other systems approach similar problems when the question arises, which is probably even more useful.

Similarly, I do want my doctor to know something about how medicine is practiced elsewhere, if for no other reason than it improves his understanding of why he practices as he does here. For instance, a doctor might want to understand something about how physicians' relationships with pharmaceutical suppliers work elsewhere. Is it critical? Probably not. Is it useful? Probably. Would it be the end of the world? Only if you're hunting for some reason to froth at the mouth and denounce the university.
10.24.2006 1:07pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I gather from the above that International Law is going to be 1L, but Constitutional Law is 2L there. Or at least it is at many, if not most, schools.

Think of the message that makes - that international law is more important to lawyers today than is our own Constitution.

Naively on my part, there appears to be a political agenda there, with the push to subsume our own laws with those of the "intenational community". But the reality is that many, if not most, lawyers today can practice law in this country with little, if any, need to understand international law. So, why is it being given priority at Harvard?
10.24.2006 1:17pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
UC Hastings has for at least 10 years required 1Ls to take a "statutory" course, whcih introduces students to statutes, regulation and administrative law. They offered tax and, I think, some consumer protection work place safety kind of thing. I think it an excellent idea since most lawyers I know refer to codes, regs and admin rulings more frequently than court cases.

There is something to the "imprint" idea; 1L is the proper time to introduce students to critical &practical area of statutory, regulatory &administrative analysis because students ratchet down attention and effort in their second year, relying on outlines, nutshells, etc. The third year is a waste of time for everyone except those who collect tuition. Since we all practice under codes, why not teach them when students are most motivated?
10.24.2006 1:29pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
The reason that law school can't be downgraded from three years is that the Doctorate portion of the degree would be jeparadized. If it becomes a two year program, then it would more likely be considered a Master's degree. Many Masters level programs are that long - my MBA program was officially two years (while my JD was, of course, three).

And, I, for one, was quite happy to spend that third year in law school for that purpose. On multiple occasions in my career, I have benefitted from having a "Doctorate" degree. Indeed, at one company I worked for, they were able to make attorney positions competitive without having to do any market research, etc., by simply treating us like PhD engineers. Pay for Master's level engineers was then about $15k less, and Bachelor level engineers another $15k lower than that. It is also quite helpful in dealing with people in many foreign countries - where "Doctor" before your name gives you added credibility (Germany seems one of the worst there - I have never received anything from there that wasn't addressed to Dr. Hayden. even from people I have met socially).

Also, if the journeyman degree from law schools is not going to be a doctorate degree, then who is going to teach in law schools? LLDs?
10.24.2006 1:32pm
Colin (mail):
Think of the message that makes - that international law is more important to lawyers today than is our own Constitution.

That's silly. Making Con Law, Tax, and Corps 2L classes (as it is at HLS) is not a statement that they're unimportant or even less important than the 1L classes. Students, faculty, and administration would probably all agree that more students use Corps than Crim in their eventual practice. Putting the int'l classes in the 1L year is an attempt to put the students' later studies in context. Don't take my word for it, read the course descriptions. Bear in mind that some commenters see this as a tacit surrender to the UN's omnious black helicopters. (Para. breaks added.)

"From the beginning of law school, students should learn to locate what they are learning about public and private law in the United States within the context of a larger universe - global networks of economic regulation and private ordering, public systems created through multilateral relations among states, and different and widely varying legal cultures and systems. Accordingly, the Law School will develop three foundation courses, each of which represents a door into the global sphere that students will use as context for U.S. law.

A course on public international law will introduce students to the sources, institutions and procedures emerging over time through the bilateral and multilateral arrangements among states as well as the participation of nongovernmental actors.

A course on international economic law will introduce students to the network of economic regulation and private ordering affecting commercial transactions, trade, banking and other systems for facilitating and regulating economic relations around the globe.

A third course, on comparative law, will introduce students to one or more legal systems outside our own, to the borrowing and transmission of legal ideas across borders and to a variety of approaches to substantive and procedural law that are rooted in distinct cultures and traditions.

Students will be allowed to elect any one of these courses in the first year."

"[C]ommercial transactions, trade, banking and other systems for facilitating and regulating economic relations around the globe"? My god, it's Red Dawn all over again! Wolveriiiines!
10.24.2006 1:42pm
Colin (mail):
Bruce Hayde,

What is your opinion of folding the entire 3L year into a practical curriculum, such as a clinical practice?
10.24.2006 1:44pm
Publius Maximus (mail) (www):
The National Law Journal had another article that may be relevant to this discussion. According to the NLJ:


Many of the top [U.S. law] firms are increasingly relying on law schools in Canada to provide them with the fresh talent they need in private equity, mergers and acquisitions, general corporate work and more.

The strategy appears to be a good fit between Canadian students who want a hand in the big deals — and the big salaries — that big U.S. law firms can provide, and hiring partners seeking associates who possess an international edge.


This article prompted the following comment on another blog:


There is another possible explanation that the National [Law] Journal may be too polite to mention — Canadian law schools are simply better than their US counterparts at preparing practicing lawyers. Canadian law schools, for the most part, still focus on teaching the nuts and bolts of being a lawyer. My former firm employed a large number (50+) of Canadian lawyers. I was uniformly impressed with how well they grasped the important details that US
lawyers often didn't.

The irony of this situation is that while Canadian-educated lawyers are in higher demand because of how well Canadian law schools focus on nuts and bolts, US law schools are moving in exactly the opposite direction in an effort to be more "relevant." Along these lines, Harvard recently announced that it would deemphasize the traditional 1L courses of property, contracts and torts in favor of more policy-oriented courses. This may be fine if your goal is to produce future policy analysts and legislative staffers. It's not so fine if your goal is to produce future practitioners.
10.24.2006 1:45pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):

Think of the message that makes - that international law is more important to lawyers today than is our own Constitution.


Bruce, I am not sure that is the message conveyed. Portions of "constitutional law" (4th-8th Amendments, and some 14th Amendment) are already covered during the first year, albeit in "criminal procedure" classes. Anyway, the same could be said for including property law in a 1L curriculum--think of the message that sends, that property is more important than our most sacred liberties enshrined in the constitution.

Personally, I don't read any message other than that con law is something that you need to build up to, so it is better left to 2L and 3L students.

For the same reason, I do agree that the same could be said of international law, i.e., it is better left to 2L or 3L students. To the extent that it covers international business transactions, you should really have taken contracts first, and maybe secured transactions and business associations/corporations. To the extent it is international treaty obligations covering human rights law, I would think that criminal law and administrative law would be helpful courses to have first. If it is just a superficial look at other types of legal systems (e.g., civil Napoleonic "code" systems, other types of common law systems) you probably can put it anywhere.
10.24.2006 1:49pm
Nathan Jones (mail):
Bruce,

Are law degrees seriously considered doctorates? I thought that was a joke! What dissertation to you write? Come on... If a JD is a doctorate, what is an LLD -- a "doctorate deluxe"? If a JD is a doctorate, how many tenured faculty at top schools have only a JD?

Own up to it: law degrees ARE glorified master's degrees. Nothing wrong with that -- I have a regular master's degree myself -- but the two or three lawyers I have seen who insist on being called "doctor" are just small silly men. I hope you aren't one of them.

-nj
10.24.2006 1:58pm
Truth Seeker:
Is anyone really that interested in property law?

Well, not Marxists or Leftists that's for sure. But it was one of my favorite courses. If only they had more on "how to prepare a deed" than they did on "fee tails."
10.24.2006 2:06pm
Colin (mail):
the two or three lawyers I have seen who insist on being called "doctor" are just small silly men

I'm astounded that you know even one. I've never met a lawyer who wanted to be called "doctor." But if, in my line of work, it was as Hayden describes it--a technical distinction making a $15k difference? I'd take $15k/year to assume an unwarranted but technically permissible title. I just wouldn't ever try it outside the office.
10.24.2006 2:10pm
HLS grad (mail):
I went to HLS, and I think it's important to recognize that the faculty is worried about being left behind. They know they're kind of stuck in the 1950s model of legal education, but most of them don't have any practical experience at all so they have no idea what is important to today's lawyers. 1L courses in regulation and international law seem appealing because the faculty imagines the classes as "forward looking" and "21st century," which HLS wants.

Why 1L courses? The courses can't be 2L requirements in part because that would mean fewer students are around to take upper level electives that the faculty most enjoy teaching. If you require students to take a lot of 2L courses, they're not going to be able to take that constitutional theory seminar you want to teach.
10.24.2006 2:20pm
Houston Lawyer:
There are a lot of courses that are not generally required that should be taken by all attorneys: bankruptcy; secured credit; banking (UCC3-4); business associations; employment law; wills &estates; environmental law; and intellectual property. These courses are not sexy or particularly interesting, but contain information that most practicing attorneys need to know, at least to the extent that they can point a client in the right direction.

Law practices are far too varied to pretend that law schools can adequately teach students about the practice of law. To the extent that they do this, they tend to focus on litigation. In over 20 years of practice, I have appeared in court one time, at an informal bankruptcy hearing. My trial advocacy class was just a waste of time.
10.24.2006 2:39pm
JRL:

Are law degrees seriously considered doctorates?


I make my wife call me "doctor."
10.24.2006 2:47pm
frankcross (mail):
I actually think the best strategy would be to increase the number of required classes and include much of the second year. That would help ensure breadth of coverage by students while still leaving a lot of flexibility for electives.
10.24.2006 2:54pm
Thales (mail) (www):
The new Georgetown law curriculum option sounds pretty refreshing and interesting, while still largely focused in traditional subjects, and devoid of any "Marxist" or other bias I can see. Academic Marxism has been on the wane for a long time, and in any event the idea that vast swathes of undergrads or law students are turned into America-hating subversives by their educators is really quite silly. The remarks of some of the commenters above do show an unfortunate tendency toward anti-intellectualism. Certainly law school is not like a giant 3 year clinic, and I think many law students who attend would be quite disappointed if it were turned into one. As for international law, the black helicopter people should really give up the conceit that Justice Kennedy and the HLS faculty want to turn the U.S. into a protectorate of the U.N. There is a legitimate debate over the citation of other nations' courts in American opinions that is just that--a debate. I agree that it probably should not be a 1L or even a required course, but the utter paranoia about anything non-U.S. the proposal inspires in some should really be taken for what it is.
10.24.2006 2:58pm
Mike99:
Ambrose - it doesn't matter that statutes and regs change. One of the great weaknesses of law school is teaching students to read, understand and be comfortable with statutes and regs.
10.24.2006 3:02pm
KevinM:
Re JRL: Are law degrees seriously considered doctorates?

I make my clients undress.
10.24.2006 3:21pm
Randy R. (mail):
Actually, it is the MBA program that should have an first year emphasis on international trade. We are one global market, and every business student should know that.

As for the law students, I dont' think it's necessary, and other courses are more relevant. But it should certainly be offered.
10.24.2006 4:25pm
CJColucci:
What we have here is some tinkering around the edges of a fairly traditional curriculum. Things like this have been tried elsewhere without any discernable impact for good or ill. It gives curriculum committees something to do and allows stuffy law professors to be fashionable for a while. As the dean told us on the first day, "we couldn't ruin you if we tried." Everyone who graduates law school finds himself (or herself) thinking at some point years down the road "I wish I had taken admiralty instead of that course on regulating tender offers" or some such thing. But we suck it up and head for the library. Always did, always will, no matter how they tinker with the curriculum.
10.24.2006 4:42pm
Nathan Jones (mail):
Colin: I'm astounded that you know even one.

They are professors of political science at a very small college... I think they claim "doctor" to overcompensate for not having a PhD.

-nj
10.24.2006 5:38pm
A.C.:
Houston Lawyer -- wills and estates not sexy or interesting?!?!? Every case is like watching a soap opera, with estranged relatives and second wives and irate children who think they didn't get enough. The calm, boring cases don't make it into the book.

But then, I'm the geek who liked property.
10.24.2006 5:42pm
Spartacus (www):
"Are law degrees seriously considered doctorates?

I make my wife call me "doctor.""

But even more fun is making folks call you "esquire" after you pass the bar. Incidentally, what is the female form of esquire?
10.24.2006 6:00pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Sparctacus

Esquire literally meant "shield-bearer". A squire is a boy who attends upon a knight, typically hoping to be raised someday to the knighthood. In the English aristocracy, the eldest son of a knight was by right an esquire.

By definition, the word cannot have a female form.

I don't know how lawyers came to get the "esquire" honorofic.
10.24.2006 6:13pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
As to the question of whether the JD is considered a doctorate degree, just look at the robes you wear for graduation. Except for the color of the sash or something, they are identical to the robes worn by PhDs, MDs, PharmDs, DDs, DDSs, etc. Same three stripes on the sleeves, as opposed to the longer sleeves of the Masters' robes, etc.

Not all doctorates are research doctorates. Rather, a lot of them are professional doctorates, like the JD, MD, and DDS. The typical distinction is that a research doctorate requires a dissertation and a professional one does not.

I am reminded of someone I know who grew up in a house with an MD (who also had a PhD). While he was alive, he was the only "Doctor" in the house because of his MD. But now, she has a PhD, as do several siblings, all of whom now insist on being addressed as "Doctor". (So, to yank her chain, I use Dr. Hayden when addressing her as Doctor).

I agree that it is all BS. It really doesn't matter in the practice of law whether you have a JD or a LLB (my father's LLB was upgraded to a JD a decade or so after his graduation). But I do think that it matters in academia, where almost all the rest of the faculty now have doctorates.
10.24.2006 6:14pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
In response to a question above, I would like to see the 3rd year be a lot more practical. The high point of my 3L year was a corporate internship at a high tech company. Looking back, I also would have liked to have had some real litigation experience then too. Not a capital case like Reese Witherspoon had in Legally Blonde, but maybe some client counseling and misdemeanor defense. It would have been much more useful than what I ended up taking my 3L year.

It appears that the average MD program has two years of classroom and lab training, followed by one or usually two years of rotation through various areas of medicine. Then, they get their doctorate degrees, and after that, start their real specialization training (which can sometimes take almost twice as long as medical school was). I would certainly support something similar to the typical MD academic program for attorneys, with the first two years spent learning the basics, and the rest of the schooling being of a more practical nature.
10.24.2006 6:28pm
Colin (mail):
Houston Lawyer -- wills and estates not sexy or interesting?!?!? Every case is like watching a soap opera, with estranged relatives and second wives and irate children who think they didn't get enough. The calm, boring cases don't make it into the book.

Especially in Texas. My clearest memories from the Texas BarBri are the lecturer's comments on the shortest holographic will on record ("Mom gets all," written in blood on the hood of the tractor bisecting the decedant) and the rule for illegitimate children ("You don't feed a bastard at the family table.") If only it were all bloody wills and bastard children; law school would be more fun.
10.24.2006 6:34pm
Alex 2005 (mail):
The issue (from quickly perusing the comments and linked story) that nobody has bothered to address is whether they believe that there exists a set of required courses that every graduate of law school should be required to take because it either is: (1) touches upon basic concepts that every lawyer should know even if those concepts will not arise in his/her future intended practice; or (2) is necessary to have a familarity with because that particular area of law comes up in a broad range practice areas. I think how one answers that question is whether you view a law school strictly through a professional lens or view it as closer to a "purely academic experience" in which one learns to "think like a lawyer" but doesn't have to necessarily be exposed to any particular snippets of law to succeed as a pracitioner. How a school shapes its curriculium should also depend on the type of work/practcie that its graduates traditionally pursue. For example, schools that are more regional in nature probably should offer required courses in state law - or tailor the traditional first year courses (contracts, torts, property) to the state or states where the majority of their graduates will practice. Finally, I think the term "international law" has been used too loosely on this discussion thread. There is a clear distinction between public and private international law. What purpose there is to teach <b></b>public<b></b> international law as a first year class is unclear to me.
10.24.2006 6:54pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
A third year of clinical practice ala medical school would be a great idea. I found that the first two years of law school were much more useful than the third. Most states already have statutes allowing law students to engage in clinical practice, under relatively modest restrictions. Unfortunately, some of these rules are limited to government or "public interest" work, which not everyone is interested in.

Another problem is that the first school to adopt this idea will have to put a *lot* of administrative effort into it. Here's a challenge to the professoriate (particularly those associated with one of the innovative law schools located near our nation's capital). If you can set something like this up, you will establish your school as a *true* leader in the field (and yourself as the new C.C. Langdell).
10.24.2006 7:28pm
Jon Black (mail):
Spartacus

My girlfriend, who is herself an attorney, informs me that the female form of esquire is equivalent to the term generally used to describes one's ex-wife.

I avoid it whenever possible.
10.24.2006 7:54pm
David M. Nieporent (www):

What I think is most telling about the HLS press release, linked to by Colin, is the headline: "HLS faculty unanimously approves first-year curricular reform." Unanimously? How is that possible? I can think of three ways:

1) Only a handful of people participated, in which case "unanimously" is mere puffery;

2) These changes are purely cosmetic, affecting the names of courses but not the content, and so there's no reason to object; or

3) There's some serious PC pressure going on there. Can you imagine that as many people as make up the faculty would all agree on these changes, especially given, as this thread notes, that "Deans Not So Impressed" with them? There was not a single dissenter anywhere on the faculty?
10.24.2006 9:34pm
elChato (mail):
The particular courses taught in the first year are probably not all that important to most students' careers, especially at a top university. The traditional subjects did however serve as a great lode of material for teaching people how to extract rules from reading often-confusing appellate cases and apply them in varied fact situations.

This skill is still a very important one but everyone wants to change with the times, and I suppose Harvard wants to give some recognition to the rise of statutes and the regulatory state as important sources of law. From my perspective if the law schools need to teach any particular skill better to their students though, it's writing ability- which is poor throughout the profession and often noticeably worse in new lawyers.

Now all you kids get off my lawn!
10.25.2006 12:32am
Colin (mail):
DMN, you forgot the fourth alternative - that these are substantive changes, but after reviewing the materials first hand and discussing the costs and benefits, a group of smart and risk-averse people unanimously decided that it was a good idea. Do you really need to resort to a conspiracy theory to explain this?
10.25.2006 11:16am
A.C.:
elChato - I watched my writing get MUCH worse in law school. It's just beginning to revert to where it was before I listened to my writing instructor, so I agree that legal writing classes are the weakest part of the law school experience. No, I would go even further -- they're actively destructive and sometimes even traumatic. Student instructors are a big part of the problem, especially given the kind of students who seem drawn to that job.
10.25.2006 11:31am
BruceM (mail) (www):
This is just pure snootiness and snobery, 100%. What Harvard is trying to get across is that, while most law students across the nation will end up embarking on legal careers which will include Torts and Contracts as staples, Harvard's special little geniuses will all grow up to be legislators and international superstars.

Why this isn't blatantly obvious to everyone else makes me think it might actually be working.
10.25.2006 11:32am
Spartacus (www):
"As to the question of whether the JD is considered a doctorate degree, just look at the robes you wear for graduation. Except for the color of the sash or something, they are identical to the robes worn by PhDs, MDs, PharmDs, DDs, DDSs, etc. Same three stripes on the sleeves, as opposed to the longer sleeves of the Masters' robes, etc."

As some of you probably already know, UT Law graduates wear white suits, not robes, hoods, or stripes.

Jon Black: care to elaborate?
10.25.2006 1:26pm
Mark Field (mail):

What Harvard is trying to get across is that, while most law students across the nation will end up embarking on legal careers which will include Torts and Contracts as staples, Harvard's special little geniuses will all grow up to be legislators and international superstars.


Shorn of the pejorative language, I think this is mostly right. As a general rule, it seems that the higher rated the law school, the more it teaches policy. Harvard is just taking an additional step in this direction.
10.25.2006 1:46pm
james (mail):
no one needs to "worry" about harvard law grads not learning the "nuts and bolts." from what I know their core classes are already quite removed from the traditional expansive doctrinal syllabi used at most schools (i.e. a contracts course may be comprised of several lectures on a particular professor's obscure pet subrogation theories, etc.).

it is not as if most or many harvard grads will be pounding the pavement or lining up outside the mass county courts after graduation, ready to practice "traditional" law. they are training to become academics, judicial clerks, and huge-firm memo writers for the large part.
10.25.2006 2:52pm
Colin (mail):
from what I know their core classes are already quite removed from the traditional expansive doctrinal syllabi used at most schools (i.e. a contracts course may be comprised of several lectures on a particular professor's obscure pet subrogation theories, etc.).

Ummm, no. The "removed" 1L course I had was Randy Barnett's Contracts class when he was a visiting professor. And that was only "removed from the traditional" syllabus because he taught the elements in a somewhat unconventional order. Remedies first, I think? I can't remember. (No fault of Barnett's, I just find contracts in general dull.) Where does all this antipathy and antagonism come from?
10.25.2006 3:00pm
Jon Black (mail):
Spartacus

My point was that the term given to many female attorneys is a non-flattering one, similar to one often used to describe an ex-wife.

It was an attempt at humor. Apparently, a rather poor attempt.
10.25.2006 4:13pm
SoL:
What the heck is "international law" anyway? Public or private domain? So many prospective law students say they want to practice international law. Do they not realize that most countries have their own separate and distinct legal systems? That it is rare in private practice to have to work with different countries' laws? This sounds like a bad publicity ploy, Harvard. See Anna Ivey's blog: Iveyfiles.com - there is a post about this from October 10.
10.25.2006 7:12pm
Colin (mail):
Do they not realize that most countries have their own separate and distinct legal systems?

I would estimate that 100%, at least, of prospective HLS students realize that "most countries" have their own legal systems. I think your concerns would be assuaged by reading the course descriptions, linked above.
10.25.2006 7:16pm
Little (mail) (www):
I've taken a quick look at your postings, which are very interesting. Lots of material and ideas! Congrats on being so focused!
11.2.2006 6:49am