Monday, August 15, 2011

Should Law School Grads Teach Law?

In theory they should. After all, they studied it for 3 years and hopefully beyond. So, they have the right information but do they deliver it in a way that can be called teaching? This question occurred to me when I heard that someone had told a beginning professor that "law school scholarship including empirical work is the means to the end of advancing your point of view or opinion."

The problem here is pretty obvious. Law students are schooled on the importance of representing a client as completely as ethically possible. In fact, they are professionals at this. It is, after all, an adversarial system. Can they drop the adversarial/representational mindset when they become scholars and teachers? Many cannot.

When one adopts his or her own point of view or opinion as a client, then the idea of being a teacher hits a wall. The same is true when you are inclined only to hire or tenure people who agree with you. You are not teaching; the exception being if you fess up and say, "my personal politics are too far to the left/right/liberal to personally feel comfortable with that argument." I doubt this happens much because many law profs do not want to engage on meaningful issues. True engagement means the other person may have something to say that is relevant and that cannot be true when you know you are right, no matter what.

So, law grads have the information. That is the good news.

Some more good news. They may have practiced law and may know how.

The bad news is that, although they have a boatload of war stories and talk as though it was yesterday, most have either not practiced at all or only so long ago that there was no internet.

The other bad news is the really bad news. They are also taught to not to be open minded, tolerant, or humble when it comes to what they believe and many, not all, cannot stop representing their personal beliefs. This also means they cannot teach.

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