Law School – Past, Present and Future

Three of the most unrelated things you will ever do in your life are: go to law school, take the bar exam, and practice law. This was advice given to me by an attorney for whom I worked while in law school. Although somewhat hyperbolical, there is much substance to the statement. I pass these “words of wisdom” onto my constitutional law students in an attempt to convince them doing well in law school will not a fortiori make you a successful lawyer. And, conversely, not doing well in law school (or taking the bar exam five times) will not banish you to the unsuccessful regions of the practice of law.

The heart of any law school education should be the teaching and learning of a methodology for critical analysis. Traditionally this takes place in the context of a Socratic environment which allows for professors to influence and shape a student’s approach to solving legal problems. Effective legal education necessitates that a student intellectually grapple with unfamiliar concepts and methodologies and synthesize these ideas into a coherent, concise analytical approach.

Ahh, but “the times they are a-changin’ ”(or are they?). This law school edition of the Contra Costa Lawyer  explores potential future changes in the way by which we educate law students which will include online law school and apprenticeship programs, changes in – and the social  ramifications of – the bar exam, and personal perspectives from recent law school graduates. We are all familiar with the cliché: the only constant is change. Let’s hope future changes to law school education and the bar examination make us better lawyers.