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Tuesday, March 29, 2005
  Being Competitive : Just had lunch in the Atrium with some law-school classmates, and I leaned on them to give me their opinions about the curriculum. (Now that the Badgers are out of the NCAA tourney, we were at a loss for something to talk about)

I was explaining the distinction I draw between the "technical" aspect of what a lawyer does, and the "human" side of lawyering. As Eric has prompted me to explain, what I mean by "technical" is critical thinking and analysis. The human side is... well, hard to explain, but I've talked about what I mean by that phrase in earlier posts. A quote from a discussion in the comments to summarize earlier conclusions about how I think these two "sides" of lawyering shoul dbe attended to in Law School:

...Bear in mind that I do, of course, think that law students need to be schooled in analysis and critical thinking. It's a matter of what should be emphasized--that is, what the foundation should be that the curriculum tries to lay down during the first year. I envision a curriculum, I think, where that foundation consists of a focus on the human side of lawyering. Then, beginning during the second year (and continuing on through on-the-job training and into our careers), the analysis and critical thinking part (or what I would call the "technical part") is then added.

The law students I was with said two things: (1) we agree with you, whole-heartedly, but (2) it's too risky from a competitiveness standpoint, therefore no thanks. They are concerned that without the "traditional" first year under their belt, our second-year law students who want to find summer jobs at law firms will be less competitive.

So, that's the tension. Competitiveness on the job market as 2Ls. If we change the curriculum to lay the "human" side foundation that I'm talking about, it can be better for an attorney in the long run. I can develop into a much better attorney over the arc of my career, I believe, if I start out with something other than the "traditional' first-year foundation. But, in the short term, I am worried about getting summer jobs and competing with students from Michigan, Harvard, etc., so it's too big a risk.

Pause. Ponder. So, the Big Ten is looking pretty tough next season, huh?
Yes, even when the Big Ten is "down" they send two teams to the Final Four.

And congrats on your award. Its nice to know that your camp-out in the WLR office paid off.

On to the point, Forget competitiveness. I think that the traditional first year curriculum is essential to being a competent lawyer. Every single day that I have been a practicing lawyer I have confronted an issue from Contracts or Civ Pro or Evidence. Without these building blocks it is impossible to be a useful lawyer, no matter how "human" your touch is.

People come to lawyers with problems, and the lawyer has to navigate the legal system to steer them toward solutions. Hand-holding along the way is nice, but clients can have their hands held by others. They need their lawyer to do lawyer stuff.

Further, the human side of lawyering is not something that can be taught. You can either relate to people or not. In my experience, many people at UW law were people people, who would not benefit from a touchy-feely seminar on the human side of lawyering.

And anyway, I always felt that certain professors--Macaulay comes to mind--emphasized that behind the cases are real people with real problems.
After we paid for our kids summer camp employment we found it tough to recover! I totally agree with you!
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