Law School, Heal Thyself

The various struggles endured by U.S. law schools and recent law school graduates have been well documented by On the Merits and other outlets for a long time now. However, we also have noted evidence suggesting that the country’s legal education industry is rebounding, albeit in small increments.

In an excellent opinion column recently published in The New York Times, the Dean of Rutgers School of Law stipulates that the legal profession itself may be the key to helping “turn this thing around” where law schools are concerned. Dean John J. Farmer Jr. – who also happens to be the former New Jersey Attorney General – lays out the argument that the U.S. is suffering from a glut of overpriced, inexperienced lawyers whose billable rates have made them unsustainable.

His recommendation is for a legal residency program that would allow law school graduates to work for two years while their legal education costs are put on hold so they can learn from more-established lawyers, all while charging lower rates than their current-day counterparts. Farmer reasons that this scenario would allow law firms to hire more lawyers at lower rates, opening the door for graduates of non-top-tier law schools to shine. At Rutgers, Farmer’s school already is starting a postgraduate, nonprofit legal clinic where recent graduates will work under supervision to represent lower-middle-class-clients at reduced rates.

Most lawyers have, at one time or another, wondered why we go to school for three years to get an education that’s long on the theoretical and the Socratic method and short on ethics and practical lawyering skills, only to be turned loose in the legal marketplace without really knowing anything about the day-to-day practice of law for real clients. Fortunately, most of us find mentors, but with the economy so bad, large numbers of today’s new lawyers have no choice but to hang out their shingle and hope for the best. 

Kudos to Dean Farmer for working to initiate innovative change, rather than resist it. 


Posted: 2/27/2013 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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About This Blog

Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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