Stanford Law Announces Revamped Upper-Level Curriculum:
From an announcement made on Tuesday:
  Stanford Law School today announced changes that are transforming the JD into a three-dimensional degree program that combines the study of other disciplines with team-oriented, problem-solving techniques and expanded clinical training that enables students to represent clients and litigate cases—before they graduate. Stanford's innovation is being driven by the new demands on modern lawyers, which are fundamentally different from those present when the law school curriculum was formed.
  Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer said the pedagogical changes the school is spearheading are focused on the second and third year curriculum. He hopes Stanford's reform—which began last year and should be fully implemented by 2009—will provide a model for legal education generally.
  Talk to any lawyer or law school graduate and they will tell you they were increasingly disengaged in their second and third years," Kramer said. "It's because the second and third year curriculum is for the most part repeating what they did in their first year and adds little of intellectual and professional value. They learn more doctrine, which is certainly valuable, but in a way that is inefficient and progressively less useful. The upper years, as presently configured, are a lost opportunity to teach today's lawyers things they need to know. Lawyers need to be educated more broadly—with courses beyond the traditional law school curriculum—if they are to serve their clients and society well."
  "Business, medicine, government, education, science, and technology have all grown immensely more specialized," Kramer said. "Legal education must adapt. How can a lawyer truly comprehend and grapple with a complex intellectual property dispute without understanding anything about the technology at issue? What counselor can effectively advise a client about investing in China or India without understanding their particular legal structures, to say nothing of their different cultural expectations and norms?" . . .
  Stanford Law School's first change has been to make it easy for law students to take courses outside the law school, thus creating a way to add breadth in their education. . . .
  And while the school has long permitted applicants to propose virtually any joint degree, Kramer wants to take joint degrees a step further than other schools by enlarging the number of such programs that enable students to complete the requirements more quickly and at less expense. Specifically, he hopes to formalize more than 20 joint degree masters and PhD programs over the next three years, modeled on the longstanding JD/MBA program. Like the JD/MBA, these programs combine course requirements in ways that greatly reduce the time and money it takes to pursue two distinct degrees, typically saving a full year. Hence, many of the JD/Masters degrees—in such fields as engineering, education, environmental science, and more—can be completed in the same three years it has traditionally taken to earn a JD alone. . . .
  "What we're doing here no other university has done," said Kramer, "and almost no other university can do, because they don't have the same number and quality of schools and departments. The idea is to utilize the rest of the university to create a more three-dimensional legal education. We realized that the rest of the university is training the people who will become our students' clients. Good lawyers need to understand what their clients do."
  This is very interesting, although I confess it's not entirely clear to me what it means. (A three-dimensional program? Who knew that Stanford has been offering a mere two-dimensional curriculum all this time?). As best I can tell, the real reform here is to decrease the number of required "law" courses in the curriculum so that students can take more courses outside of the law school. Also, the school appears to be adding two new clinics.

  It will be interesting to see how this works in practice. I vaguely recall that when I was a student at Harvard Law a decade ago, students were allowed to take one course every semester outside the law school. Among my friends, one took a Chinese language course, and another took a few courses in American politics over at the Kennedy School of Government. My recollection is that few students took advantage of this option, however; most took all of their classes in the law school. (If I recall correctly, my friends who took classes out of the law school generally viewed them as "free passes" that were nice breaks from the rigor of law school.) Of course, that was back in the 20th Century, when lawyering was different.

  Hat tip: Matt Bodie.

  UPDATE: Over at First Movers, Penn law student Anthony Ciolli argues that "Stanford is pretty much copying the Penn Law School curriculum verbatim and passing it off as 'innovative.'"
Anthony Ciolli (mail) (www):

"What we're doing here no other university has done," said Kramer

I really found that statement disingenuous, given that all these so-called revolutionary developments have been in place at other law schools for several years now. See here for more details.

Don't get me wrong -- I think the courses and clinics mentioned in the press release sound great. However the easily refuted puffery about Stanford being the only university to do these things is extremely silly and detracts from the announcement, making it look as if Stanford is just trying to steal Harvard's thunder.
12.1.2006 12:57am
Actually, when HLS students take cross-registered courses in other parts of Harvard, the grade doesn't count for your HLS GPA (although you get credits towards your HLS degree). So to the extent that you care about your HLS GPA for honors purposes or whatever, it's not an "easy A", it's actually a "free lunch".

As a separate issue, there are plenty of Harvard courses that are not easy As (I've taken some grad-level courses in the economics department, and learned the most yet got my lowest grades in those).

[OK Comments: Spider, you're absolutely right. My recollection was close, but slightly off. I have made the correction in the post, replacing "easy A" with "free pass."]
12.1.2006 12:59am
Or we could just eliminate the useless 3rd year, saving students tens of thousands of dollars.
12.1.2006 1:05am

If "Grand Teacher Oziblablah" (GTO) made this post on, he would be accused of being a "Penn Troll", and rightly so. No kidding, Ciolli, the principle of joint degrees is not novel? The question is, how will Stanford execute its plan. Other schools are a lot more likely to follow Stanford's lead than Penn's.

12.1.2006 2:37am
Nobody Special:
Too bad that most of Stanford's graduate programs are pretty crappy relative to the reputation of the law school. (Sciences and other professional degrees excepted)
12.1.2006 3:49am
a three-dimensional degree program that combines the study of other disciplines with team-oriented, problem-solving techniques and expanded clinical training that enables students to represent clients and litigate cases—before they graduate

I take this to mean that they're turning SLS into a consulting firm, complete with dynamic, value-added, goal-driven synergy. I hope they have a class in "thinking outside the box," because my major disappointment in law school was that mine didn't offer that.

As for Larry Kramer's statement that he's some sort of revolutionary, this is just what Brian Leiter might call "Sextonism."
12.1.2006 7:27am
PersonFromPorlock:, problem-solving techniques...

Hoo boy. Run. Run screaming!
12.1.2006 7:53am
Eric Muller (www):
"Three-dimensional JD program."

12.1.2006 11:08am
Oh for the Good Old Days when you went to law school to learn . . . law.
12.1.2006 1:29pm
come on, let's quit predending to be shocked that a press release would over state its claim. sure most of this is marketing, and many of the changes simply represent the broadening of initiatives, e.g. joint and clinical programs, already in place at stanford and elsewhere. however, that doesn't do as much to lessen the significance of these curricular changes as some of the above commenters (and Zywicki elsewhere) seem to think:

marketing has an impact, most significantly in the type of student it draws into the law school. this change in positioning has potential to increase the portion of stanford students who view law as only one part of a larger educational journey.

we can debate whether that change is desirable, but it's significant that two of the very 'best' law schools are getting more serious about multidisciplinary programs. this type of positioning has spread from the slightly-less exclusive programs, notably northwestern and penn, and gained wider appeal among the top schools. the students at those two programs should view stanford's announcement as an endorsement of penn and northwestern's programs (at least those that chose it on their initiatives) rather than view them as an insult.
12.1.2006 2:04pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
I think the problem arises when a liberal arts major who doesn't know what to do with the rest of his/her life decide to go to law school because it buys them another three years to grow up and supposedly a law degree will result in big bucks. I doubt there is much of a problem with law students who have a major or background in the sciences, engineering, or similar technological field and therefore already have a greater understanding of today's technology versus a fellow law student with merely a liberal arts background.
12.1.2006 6:33pm
Alex650 (mail):
"Nobody Special"-

What graduate programs exactly would those be? To the extent that economics and political science are hot JD combos, Stanford--especially in the former--is superb. I wonder how many law students would be willing to follow "spider" and actually subject themselves to the analytical rigors of graduate (or, at Stanford, many undergraduate) economics classes. I also wonder if the Law School has somehow convinced the Econ department to starting giving out MAs.
12.1.2006 8:48pm
Alex650 (mail):
Apologies--that last line should read "to start giving out MAs." Analytical rigor is tough, but so are gerundians.
12.1.2006 8:50pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I think that anyone who doesn't tkae clinic is seriously cheating themselves. I spent an entire semester (and beyond actually) in court, representing clients, drafting motions, and doing real advocacy. I couldn't imagine my first in court experience being after I passed the bar and had no one to help me or stand with me. I think Stanford and every other law school should require clinic, just as my law school does.
12.1.2006 9:30pm
The River Temoc (mail):
I couldn't imagine my first in court experience being after I passed the bar and had no one to help me or stand with me. I think Stanford and every other law school should require clinic, just as my law school does.

Why? Most lawyers don't argue in court.
12.1.2006 11:07pm