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May 11, 2011

Redux - Prof. Bruce Antkowiak: "Why Law Schools Must Reform".

Law firms cannot be expected to do 95% of the work of lawyer-building. In that regime, clients suffer the most.

The U.S. Law Degree: As immediately useful as "a Ph.d in Poetry"? Bruce Antkowiak, a storied Pennsylvania defense trial lawyer, ex-DOJ section chief and 1977 Harvard Law grad, is now a full-time law professor at Duquesne University. This op-ed piece, "Law Schools Must Reform", appeared in the January 4, 2011 Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. Antkowiak's article is subtitled: "They need to leave the ivory tower--and teach practical lawyering."

Antkowiak's piece is at once both an important call to arms and, frankly, a modest proposal. In addition to making law firms truly efficient, could we ask law schools to perform even minimally and produce something of value? I.e., What are you folks really accomplishing in those 3 years, anyway? We practitioners don't get it. You are making things not only frustrating--but very very expensive. Clients suffer the most.

Can you help even a little? Step up? Firms will train. But we cannot be expected to do 95% of the work of lawyer-building.

Question: What can schools do to prepare students for the day-to-day world of work and commerce?

Excerpts from Antkowiak:

You would think that law schools would make fundamental changes to their programs in the wake of the job crisis, fearing that law degrees might someday be assessed like a Ph.D. in poetry -- soul-satisfying but potentially impractical. A few have responded dramatically, but most have held fast to the traditional law school model or made superficial changes. Why the resistance?

For many law schools, their institutional identity dictates that they be largely disconnected from the practice of law. This is done (I suppose) in the belief that we "in the academy" will thereby establish ourselves as an intellectual elite worthy of praise for the intricacy of our philosophical analysis.

The crisis in the law job market has not occurred because the world has miraculously become such an inherently just place that lawyers are no longer needed. The cries for justice remain as loud as ever. You can hear them no matter how high your ivory tower may rise.

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzb├╝hel Desk) at May 11, 2011 12:22 AM

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