W&L Law Professor A. Benjamin Spencer, Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Frances Lewis Law Center, has just published an article entitled The Law School Critique in Historical Perspective, 69 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1949 (2012). This article provides an extensive review of the history of legal education and legal education reform up to the present day, gleaning lessons along the way for how we might address contemporary challenges facing law schools. Here is the abstract:
Contemporary critiques of legal education abound. This arises from what can be described as a perfect storm: the confluence of softness in the legal employment market, the skyrocketing costs of law school, and the unwillingness of clients and law firms to continue subsidizing the further training of lawyers who failed to learn how to practice in law school. As legal jobs become increasingly scarce and salaries stagnate, the value proposition of law school is rightly being questioned from all directions. Although numerous valid criticisms have been put forth, some seem to be untethered from a full appreciation for how the current model of legal education developed. Indeed, a historical perspective on legal education is sorely missing from this debate, as many of the criticisms merely echo charges that have been lodged against legal education for well over a century, but do not draw lessons from how those former critiques ultimately failed to deliver fundamental change. This Article reviews the historical development of legal education in America, including the critiques and reforms made along the way, to gain insight that will inform our own efforts to make law schools better at preparing lawyers for practice.
This article, which was published in the Washington & Lee Law Review, may be downloaded from SSRN by visiting http://ssrn.com/abstract=2017114.