I have been enjoying the debates that have ensued after President Obama’s recommendation to cut law school down to two years. I agree with it personally, but only with the requirement of some form of mentorship or residency program added on. Actually, this practical skills requirement should be in place even with a three year schedule.
My concern is that if the law school length were cut down to only two years, more of the practical courses that do exist in the curriculum would have to be cut. If the bar exam isn’t changing any time soon, then students would still be hard pressed to take all the substantive bar courses and the practice areas they are interested in only in two years. That might push the practical skills, legal writing, law practice management courses, incubators, clinics, mock trial, law review and many other extras further to the side.
However, law schools could start looking at outside solutions to provide their students with this form of practical education. This is emerging in the form of certificate courses and supplemental programs for law students and young lawyers.
I announced a couple weeks ago that Richard Granat and I are now co-directors of the Center for Law Practice Technology. This is our intention: to provide law students and, at some point, private practitioners with the practical business and technology knowledge that they need to practice law in the 21st Century. It is essentially a certificate program. The students will graduate with proof for themselves and prospective employers that they have real-world business and technology skills to practice law or work in any other capacity in our profession.
Obviously, I believe this type of program is a good solution for law schools to consider – regardless of whether they ever go down to a two-year degree. It will help our law students and those currently practicing to get up to speed. I am excited to see what kind of innovation we can come up with in the way that this learning experience is delivered. We are currently working on course design for our project and thinking about user design and experience in how each course is laid out and taught both in lectures, prerecordings, podcasts, videos and other materials.
When I read the discussions around President Obama’s statement, I got very excited that maybe this time the proponents of this two-year concept would be taken more seriously.
To share some of our ideas about teaching this material, here is the online copy of the law review paper Richard and I co-authored. This provides a blueprint for a curriculum for such a program.