On Training “T-shaped” Lawyers

These conversations apply to law the “T-shaped” concept that has circulated in professional development circles for a bit longer, arguing that successful professionals increasingly need not only deep technical skills in the relevant discipline (the vertical bar) but also a solid suite of related general skills (the horizontal bar). What’s right, what’s wrong, what’s new, and what’s missing in these conversations?

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The Dis-Integration of Legal Education

Last week’s post, about “The New Look of Legal Education,” emphasized the ways in which contemporary US legal education strongly resembles the legal education of the last several decades.

In many respects, the core of the current JD program remains tethered to the innovations of Christopher Columbus Langdell at Harvard in the 1870s:  law taught as an academic discipline, rather than as a professional craft; law taught by full-time faculty members, rather than primarily via part-time teaching offered by members of the bench and bar; admission to law school conditioned on completion of a full undergraduate degree. 

This week, I want to play Devil’s advocate, by emphasizing the many ways in which that core is starting to disintegrate – or, rather, dis-integrate – at the edges.  Whether or not the initiatives and innovations I list here add up to a frontal challenge to the three-year professional JD degree, taken together they suggest a number of ways in which the JD may be starting to lose its hegemonic status as required training in law and for a legal career. 

In later posts, I’ll explore each of the items below with a somewhat sharper lens, to see whether in part or in total they add up to anything more than a mish-mash of adaptations and evolution.  Are these warnings of the end of the hegemony of the JD (my suspicion), or modern variations on the usual to-and-fro associated with any long-standing educational service?

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The New Look of Legal Education

For most of this blog’s existence, I and my co-authors wrote primarily for our fellow law professors. This re-boot is directed instead, primarily, to the legal profession – or rather, to what is now often referred to as the “legal services industry.”

With my change in focus, from time to time I’ll write here about what’s changing and what’s staying largely the same in legal education. My conversations with practicing lawyers and judges tell me that US law schools are still largely “black boxes” to the bar and bench. Even though hiring markets for new law graduates have changed in some dramatic ways over the last decade, those who hire our graduates seem largely to assume that what happens in legal education today still substantially resembles what was happening in legal education 10 years ago … 20 years ago … 30 years ago … even 40 years ago.

In some respects, that’s true! And in other respects, it’s not.

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Madisonian.net Re-boots, Again

I was invited recently to have madisonian.net included in Kevin O’Keefe’s new “LexBlog” venture (https://www.lexblog.com/about/). Accepting the invitation, which I did, implied that I might resume writing here, so I am. What’s new?

Since the last signs of life flickered at madisonian.net, in connection with the “Invitation Regarding Law and Legal Education, and Imagining the Future” and the symposium at Prawfsblawg that it provoked, a small but ambitious crew of “disruptors” from legal education, higher education, and the legal profession (n/k/a the “legal services industry”) have organized themselves around a couple of ventures.

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Law, Legal Education, and Imagining the Future: The Project Continues, Part 6 and End

“The Futures of Legal Education: A Virtual Symposium” is the title of the program convened by Dean Dan Rodriguez at Prawfsblawg for the month of March 2018, eliciting critiques of and extensions of the ideas organized in the provocations posted in December 2017 as “An Invitation Regarding Law, Legal Education, and Imagining the Future.” [Part I, here] [Part II, here] [Part III, here] [Part IV, here] [Part V, here] [And the piece in full, as a single document, from SSRN]

The symposium is organized under the “2018 Symposium: Future of Legal Ed” tag. I have collected highlights from all of the posts, approximately 10 posts at a time. The first batch appears here. The second batch is here. The third batch is here. The fourth batch is here. The fifth batch is here.

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