At least that was the conclusion reached by The Wall Street Journal in reviewing a paper to be published by Georgetown University Law Center's Bret Newton (no relation).
Although I agree with the assessment, I think the bigger problem facing potential law students today is the unprecedented greed and disrespect shown by law schools and their faculties in setting tuition and costs. There is nothing worse than being both under trained practically for the practice of law while graduating with an unbelievable amount of debt. It is like having a mortgage on a mac mansion, but having no source of income to pay for it.
The problems with the law school education experience are striking. As stated by Bret Newton, law school has lost "its practical moorings". The shame is that we all know it, but large complex institutions, with their eyes set on money, rankings and prestige, instead of the well being of what they are really their to accomplish, cannot seem to do anything about it. Almost like a drug addict, they know there needs to be change, but they just cannot seem to ween themselves from the addiction.
Newton's article deals with the lack of practical experience necessary to teach students how to practice law. Attorneys with more practical experience are not necessarily the pillars of legal knowledge. To resolve this, she suggests turning most law schools into research centers with two separate tenure faculty tracks. One, representing about a third of the professoriate, would be dedicated to research. The other two-thirds would represent teaching professors.
My argument would be who should be responsible for paying the research staff? Those seeking a basic, primary legal education? Should the nerds be forced to pay for the geeks? Most good research universities raise their money through other sources than tuition. I can well imagine that entering law students would be forced to pay for the less relevant to them. Law schools as institutions cannot seem to show any self restraint when it comes to pricing. The theory must be no matter what they decide that the government and the private sector will loan enough money to the students to pay for it. The problem with this argument, however, is that real people get hurt and, instead of producing those deep thinking lawyers, the are deeply enslaving their graduates with debt that will last lifetime.
Education loans have now surpassed credit cards in dollar volume in this country. The madness really has to stop. Probably in order to get there, we will have to start to convince states to abandon the ABA as the accrediting agency for law schools, and to accept graduates of none ABA law schools that graduate from schools that are approved by another state. The ABA standards are simply antiquated and memorialize, with the threat of losing or not gaining accreditation, the ridiculous cost structures of law schools.
Secondarily, maybe the research geeks at the law schools can figure out how to sue U.S. News and its outrageous ranking system into oblivion.
End the ranking race and the money grab, and just start teaching students how to be productive lawyers - PLEASE.