How to Think Like a Lawyer
Spring Break is over, like it or not. I made good use of it this time around--perhaps because it's sinking in that starting a few months from now (and continuing for a looooooong time to come) a week's vacation won't be as easy to come by as it has in the past.
I've been ruminating on a comment from Eric last week:
"[L]aw and" classes: I took them; I liked them. However, they are a bad idea for first-year students. First year should be less about "law and" or even law in action and more about getting students to (here comes the cliche) "think like lawyers." Only once there is an intellectual framework in place can law in action and "law and" classes have any real relevance or usefulness (many debate the true value of "law and" classes anyway).
Do you buy that? I don't. I'd flip it around. The correct framework to get in place first is the law-in-action stuff. Does that cover any class that fall sunder the "Law and" category? Probably not. Depends on how they're taught. But what I am talking about is a focus on the human side of lawyering first--rather than the technical aspects, which should be learned later after the "human" fundamentals are in place.
What does it mean to think like a lawyer
? Hard question to answer but I know one thing for certain--that meaning is changing. Law school admissions policies have rapidly evolved in the last few decades (in case you haven't noticed). As new classes of graduates move out into the profession, the profession itself is going to change. And to come full circle the law school curriculum
--which has in many ways remained largely unchanged for over 100 years--should evolve as well. THat's what this is all about
The focus of law school, however, will (and should) always remain on teaching students (especially first-years) to think like a lawyer
. But how about an update in what that means?
By my reckoning, there are two major aspects to succeeding in the profession: (1) the technical aspects and (2) the human side of the job. I would argue that too heavy a focus on the technical aspects during law school is a mis-allocation of resources, because we have on-the-job training for the technical stuff. I would focus a law-school education, especially during the first year, on the human side of lawyering. The skills will come in time, but that human foundation needs to be in place from the beginning. That's what I think.