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August 18, 2011

"What if law schools opened their own law firms?"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting article in The National Law Journal, which begins this way:

Law schools have been pummeled with criticism for not producing practice-ready attorneys, so two law professors have come up with a novel fix: Law schools should operate their own law firms.

The school-owned firms would provide a training ground for recent graduates, but would function much like a normal firm, Brooklyn Law School Professor Bradley Borden and University of Maryland School of Law Professor Robert Rhee wrote in an article entitled, "The Law School Firm."  The piece will appear in a forthcoming issue of the South Carolina Law Review.

Borden and Rhee acknowledged that their idea constitutes a "radical" change from the existing law school model, but they contend that these firms would help recent graduates gain the skills they need to be successful at little expense — and possibly a profit — to law schools.

The firms would be entities distinct from the law schools, and would be professionally managed and generate revenue, although they would be operated as nonprofits. Senior attorneys would be hired to oversee the firms' practice areas, and recent law school graduates would spend fixed periods, perhaps three or six years, at the firm before moving on.

The concept is similar to that of judicial clerkships, Rhee said, in that freshly minted attorneys would spend a fixed amount of time at the firm and face no stigma when they leave.  Being in an actual, functioning law firm would offer a far more immersive learning experience than students could find in the classroom or even in a law school clinic, he said.

Of course, if (when?) this idea takes off, I am going to want to make sure that my law school firm has a large sentencing and post-conviction appellate practice.

UPDATE:  The law review article reference above is now available at this link via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Article introduces the concept of the law school firm.  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.

Cross-posted at Law School Innovation.

August 18, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Permalink


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So would the firms be like existing law school clinics, but for richer clients?

-Law clerk

Posted by: Emily | Aug 18, 2011 12:41:56 PM

They already have their own law firms. Those pro-bono clinics that aid terrorists, illegal aliens, welfare queens, and other assorted criminals, racists, and anti-Americanistas.

Posted by: Federale | Aug 18, 2011 2:33:38 PM

If law schools did, I would hope that there would be an option to do the law firm requirement at another school, just like there is the option to do a medical residency at another university's hospital (I think that is basically how that works). And that if the grad cannot get into another school's firm, then, that the grad would still be able to do it at his alma mater (unless of course there will be available school law firms that will take the grad who can't make it in another school's firm). I also would hope that the law firm thing is optional; if an employer on the open market wants to hire a new grad, the new grad should be allowed to take that job. Finally, I'd hope that the participation in the law firm school model would allow some kind of real choice for paying back loans (the school will pay X, and then pay Y towards your loans, where Y can be zero if X is high).

and if the model does not include real responsibility for real cases -- I'd have little interest in supporting it.

Posted by: = | Aug 18, 2011 4:37:03 PM

Medical school has the practice of medicine in various subject rotations in Years 3 and 4.

3L should be the practice of law under supervision. It will be shockingly different from anything the student may have learned in the first two years, unless the client is very rich and wants a lot of procedure. The first two years are about the law for the very rich (See the Rule Against Perpetuities, understood by only a dozen people still alive). The law for the merely ordinarily rich is quite different, never mind the law as it applies to the poor.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 19, 2011 3:59:28 AM

I hope they can run the law firms better than their food service but the notion of law professors running a law firm is quite funny.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Aug 20, 2011 12:54:56 AM

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