Liberal Law Professors Should Do A Couple Things

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I have not yet read Tamanaha’s piece so I can’t comment on that. However, I do feel that I can respond to the above question about what us liberal professors should do about the rising cost of legal education. I believe that there are two things that we should be doing – one of which I think we already are. First, continue to work towards transforming legal education into something that truly creates good lawyers. The many and loud critiques about the over-empasis traditional legal education places on theory divorced from practice have been occurring since Jerome Frank’s “Why not a Clinical Lawyer School?”. Law schools – moved by deans and professors alike – have been responding to the economic crises and its impact on schools by finally taking seriously the need for connecting theory and practice. That’s wonderful and I applaud those efforts. So, the second and next thing that we should be doing is showing the world – not just pre-law students – that we are now truly contributing vitally to the community by educating future lawyers and so it’s time that the world support us. We should start diversifying substantially our economic base and consider seeking government funding as well as foundation funding to support the transformation of legal education. As alluded to in the post, my forthcoming work, “Harmonizing Current Threats” builds the case for seeking much more substantial private and government support for legal education by creating a teaching law firm. That law schools have survived primarily through tuition dollars is just another symptom of the ivory tower disease. A law school that serves the community while providing a rich education that will not only create superb lawyers but also superbly ethical ones who will graduate and become pillars of their own communities is one that can proudly seek community support. Although my paper discusses teaching law firms as part of individual law schools, there is no reason why regional teaching law firms, created from several law schools pooling their resources together could not be created. Collaborating amongst law schools might not only make this kind of dream more scalable, it would be responsive to the legitimate concerns about too many law schools producing too many lawyers who aren’t employable. The bottom line – of course rising tuition is a tremendous problem. But the cost is all the more remarkable when legal education isn’t living up to it’s mandate to educate lawyers and ensure a just society. Professors who create classes and programs that do these two things, give themselves and their deans the talking points that they need to seek funding from sources other than tuition.