Sunday, November 20, 2011

What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering

The NY Times reports:
What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. ... “They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.” ...

Consider, for instance, Contracts, a first-year staple. It is one of many that originated in the Langdell era and endures today. In it, students will typically encounter such classics as Hadley v. Baxendale, an 1854 dispute about financial damages caused by the late delivery of a crankshaft to a British miller.

Here is what students will rarely encounter in Contracts: actual contracts, the sort that lawyers need to draft and file. Likewise, Criminal Procedure class is normally filled with case studies about common law crimes — like murder and theft — but hardly mentions plea bargaining, even though a vast majority of criminal cases are resolved by that method.
If you hire a lawyer for a family court case, do not expect him to apply anything he learned at law school. If he paid attention during his evidence or constitutional law classes, he would have learned a bunch of rules that the family court judges ignore anyway.

That is not to say that a lawyer is totally useless. He ought to have the experience to know how to file court papers. He might know which court evaluators have prejudices in your favor. He might tell you that the system has a vice-grip on your balls and there is nothing you can do about it. Or he might take all your money and let you figure it out for yourself.

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