November 29, 2011

SO IN LIGHT OF ALL THE TALK THAT LAW SCHOOLS DON’T TEACH STUDENTS TO BE LAWYERS, it’s worth noting that, though a fair criticism in general, that doesn’t always obtain. Here at the University of Tennessee College Of Law, for example, we have loads of clinical programs. I was just in a faculty meeting about the Business Clinic, where students work with startups and entrepreneurs and do all sorts of work ranging from transactional (incorporation, asset sales, LLC formation, etc.) to litigation and commercial. A lawyer from an M&A firm who hired one of our students last year said that she was “light years ahead” of the other first-year associates as a result. (She could certainly have answered the questions posed at the opening of the linked article above. And done all the documents.) We have the usual criminal and civil clinics, too, and a large percentage of our students do one or another. There’s even a special Wills clinic. And while clinics are an untenured ghetto at some schools, our clinic faculty are all on the tenure track just like other faculty.

Of course, another criticism of legal education is that it’s expensive, and clinics don’t address that. The appeal of the Kingsfield model popularized in The Paper Chase — where one professor declaims to a classroom of 200 students — is that it’s cheap. The hands-on stuff is more time-consuming, and hence more expensive.