Several posts have grappled with the basic structure of law schools. Al evokes the idea of a mini-university. Nancy has offered that a required pre-law curriculum would improve law schools as students would have better interdisciplinary training and better writing skills. Mike has asked â€œWhy not offer undergraduate and graduate legal education programs in the same school?â€ Christine has challenged the liberal arts idea behind law school and suggested that schools could become specialist or generalist schools. Orly has argued that a split between the training of future professionals and future educators would better serve and reflect what law schools do. Frank has asked whether the market has shifted such that schools need to focus on higher-level critical skills.
One idea might lurk within these views: is the undergraduate system failing such that many law students have aptitude but did not receive the training they may have received in years past?
Now, many say all law professors think law students cannot think or write well. Given that law school is supposed to push a studentâ€™s abilities to think and write to a higher level that view makes some sense. One would expect a certain amount of â€œwe need to improve what you doâ€ in the air. (This view can be constructive or condescending. Constructive is the way that the view makes sense). Yet, in talking with many people at a range of schools, it seems that the move to rote learning and regurgitation has produced a generation that is less armed for law school or any situation that requires independent thought and analysis. As such rather than teaching how to write a legal argument and analyze a case, many law professors may have to accomplish that task while also pointing to ways for a student to improve more fundamental skills. I could be dead wrong here. So, feedback on whether others have encountered this possibility is most welcome.
While much undergraduate education might be dumbed down, another explanation for the common complaint that law students today don’t write very well is that the range of undergraduate (and graduate) backgrounds has broadened so much. Back in the day, most law students came from a liberal arts background and had reasonably good experience writing. I think most liberal arts graduates of today do as well. But today so many students come with a background in science, math, social sciences. The writing experiences these students have had is simply not as close to the writing required. Indeed, many have had little writing experience at all.
Great point. I know some engineering schools require writing courses. The explanation given is how will anyone know what you have done if you cannot communicate it? That approach is not uniform, however. Still so many do come from liberal arts backgrounds that the lack of analytical and writing skills seems to have a broader source.