By floating a proposal to operate a law school sponsored “law firm” where student lawyers work for a law school law firm in curriculum year 3, two law school professors are essentially conceding that law schools’ case-briefing Socratic silliness adds no real world value to learning the practice of law.
Their self-described “radical” proposal to introduce “pedagogical changes” to produce “greater market-ready attorneys” is made in a law review article in the South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 63, 2011. The authors are Bradley T. Borden of the Brooklyn Law School and by Robert J. Rhee of the University of Maryland School of Law. Access the article here.
But here’s how the article abstract explains it, “The concept calls for law schools to establish affiliated law firms. The affiliation would provide opportunities for students, faculty, and attorneys to collaborate and share resources to teach, research, write, serve clients, and influence the development of law and policy. Based loosely on the medical school model, the law school firm will help bridge the gap between law schools and the practice of law.”
The kernel of their proposal is as follows: “The basic idea is simple. A law school can establish a law firm that is separate and distinct from the law school. The law school firm will be a professionally-managed, revenue-generating, non-profit law firm. The CEO will be an experienced attorney with proven legal and business-development skills, who is committed to the profession and active in the legal community. The firm will hire several senior attorneys, each to manage a different practice group. The senior attorneys will be experienced attorneys with business-development and management skills, a public-service mentality, and commitment to the profession. As needed, the firm will hire more experienced attorneys to work under the practice-group managers, service clients, participate in business development, and train “resident” or “provisional” attorneys.”
Borden and Rhee, however, acknowledge several potential obstacles, not the least being fossilized anti-innovation stakeholders; existing ethical rule conflicts on fee-splitting with non-lawyers; tax implications, and the violation of existing accreditation requirements. However, there’s an upside to the profit-minded, Mammon-worshipping law schools: “The law school would be the economic owner of the law firm, and it may have profit allocation arrangements. . . .” For more about law school money-grubbing, also see “Law School Economics: Ka-Ching!” by David Segal (NY Times, July 16. 2011)
“Those that can, do; Those that can’t, teach.” – George Bernard Shaw However, Mitchell Rubinstein, blogging at Adjunct Law Prof Blog: A Law School Law Firm??? Yeah Right!!!,” has it completely correct about Borden and Rhee’s “basic idea.”
Rubinstein infers the proposal aptly confirms Shaw’s popular wisdom as most law school professors are “simply incapable of practicing law and many never had. But, this is what we have, for the most part, training the lawyers of the future.”
Rubinstein has credibility, too, with an excellent vantage point to make his trenchant observations. He is an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s Law School.
Furthermore, he rebuts what law schools might say to defend their practice of staffing faculty with rarefied scholars instead of real world practitioners. To their hiring of practicing lawyer adjuncts to propagate a semblance of teaching practical lawyering, he rejoins, “Really; law schools should rely on the lowest paid members of their staff who have no say about admissions or curriculum or running the school.”
To this, I say “Professor Rubinstein, “Touché!”
As I blogged last week about young lawyers at “Ethics “as a weapon against young lawyers,” I surmise that many full-time law school faculty attempting to practice law, especially as solos, would likewise be in need of “both hands and a flashlight to find their own ass.”