Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Edward Zelinsky: The Most Deluded Law Professor I Have Seen Yet

When I heard about this article proposing the extension of law school to a fourth year, my rage meter went off the charts. There was no way I was going to allow this article to go unaddressed on this site. But, I want to write my unvarnished thoughts as I read this preposterous tripe. The commentary will be written as I go through the article. So, without further delay, let's see if Ed is really as big of a charlatan and poltroon as I think he is. (Note: Ed's words are in the italics)
President Obama has joined with other critics of contemporary legal education in calling for the reduction of law school to a two year program. The President and these other critics are wrong. Indeed, the remedy they propose for the ills of legal education has it exactly backward. Law school should not be shortened; it should be lengthened. The standard curriculum for a juris doctorate degree should be increased to four years.
Three considerations counsel the need for an additional year of law school: - See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/add-a-fourth-year-to-law-school/#sthash.lohHbscW.dpuf
 Three considerations counsel the need for an additional year of law school:
Really Ed? I'm sitting on the edge of my seat to see how you justify students spending even more money on such a worthless degree.
First, there is today much more law to learn than there was in the past. There are today whole new fields of law which did not exist a generation ago, e.g., health care law. Moreover, within pre-existing areas of the law, the amount of law has expanded enormously over the last two decades.

Consider, for example, the area in which I write and teach, taxation. No one doubts that the current tax law is more complicated and extensive than the taw law in effect when I went to law school. Important subspecialties, e.g., pensions, partnership tax, and international tax, have grown in complexity and importance.

Many critics belittle the substantive business of legal education by dismissing my tax courses as theoretical or doctrinal. But my courses are where my students learn the law and there is much more law to learn than there was a generation ago.

Imagine a critic of medical education who looked at the explosion of medical science in recent decades and called for less medical schooling. That is precisely what the advocates of a two year JD program are doing.
 Ed, let me break something down for you. Your students don't learn a damn thing about the actual practice of tax law. I'm sure like every other law professor growing fat off placing your students in the shackles of debt, you think that spending five weeks examining the tax treatment of inherited modern art sculptures means your students are "learning the law", but I seriously doubt you are teaching them practical things like how to write a tax appeal letter. The invocation of medical schooling is a popular canard offered by your ilk. Here's the thing. Medical students actually learn how to be doctors. They are forced to train for up to 10 years before they are free to open their own practices and take on patients independently. Your students are highly unlikely to be litigating high level tax matters.
Second, through expanded LLM programs, we are de facto creeping towards four years of legal education. In many areas of the law, such as tax, LLM degrees have grown in prominence. Several factors are fueling the expansion of LLM programs. Chief among these is that there is now more law to cover in a fourth year of law school.

Rather than the currently haphazard growth of LLM programs, it would be more sensible to require universally a fourth year of education for all law students.
Let me get this straight: Ed wants to make all students take a fourth year of courses when only a small portion are currently stupid enough to do so? Might this have something to do with the fact that undergraduates are no longer buying the B.S. Cardozo is selling? In the latest report by Law School Transparency, Cardozo received a 53.2% employment score while students pay $273,327 for the privilege. Your students will not experience better employment outcomes with a de facto LLM from a second rate law school. But you don't really care about that, do you Ed?
Third, many of the same critics who favor a two year law school curriculum also support expanded clinical education for law students. Such expanded clinical education should not come at the expense of substantive legal education but in addition to it. One way of thinking about the proposed fourth year of law school is that it responds to the demand for more clinical education in light of the simultaneously growing need for more substantive legal education.
People already see the third year of law school as being largely useless. Law schools are now trying to replace the third year with a "practice based" curriculum. So Ed thinks that we should keep the useless third year while adding a fourth year of clinical training. Are you serious right now??? Do you talk to any of your students after they graduate? Or do they cease to exist to you the moment they stop paying tuition?
The most serious argument against a fourth year of law school is the additional cost it would entail. Legal education is already too expensive. Adding a fourth year would impart even greater urgency to task of controlling the expense of law school, just as there is currently great urgency to the task of controlling the costs of undergraduate education.

Today’s panacea for controlling educational expenses is technology, most prominently online courses. I’m skeptical of panaceas in general and this panacea in particular. However, there are areas in which law school faculties and administrations can genuinely achieve economies. There is nothing sacrosanct about current teaching loads or about the much noted growth of administrative outlays by institutions of higher education.
I see. So adding a fourth year of law school is going to cause administrators to say, "Hold on guys! These students are paying us way too much in tuition now. We need to cut costs pronto!" And this will be aided in some mysterious way by "technology". Ed, I see that you care more about buying a new Mercedes than the fact that the majority of your students will be unable to afford the lifestyle your school's glossy law porn promised them. What have law school administrators done to date that would lead anyone to the conclusion that adding another year of potential revenue will lead them to start thinking more about students? Most law students are already carrying educational debt from undergrad when schools like Cardozo add another $276,000 to the tally. A fourth year will only allow law school admins to hire more useless faculty and for people like Ed Zelinsky to keep writing more academic books about IRAs and how Baby Boomers can save more for retirement.
An ancillary benefit of a fourth year of legal education would, in the short run, be a reduction in the supply of law school graduates. A fourth year would also abate the job-related pressures students currently feel after the second year of law school by giving students another bite of the employment-related apple after their third year.

The world is more complicated than it used to be. For better or worse, the law’s complexity has grown apace. Well-trained lawyers in the 21st century will need to know more law than did their predecessors. A mandatory, universal fourth year of law school is the right response to the shortcomings of legal education in a complex world.
Ed thinks a fourth year of law school will lead fewer people to go to law school. Ah, but that handy fourth year helps ensure that Cardozo doesn't lose too much of that revenue. Not to worry though: another year of summering at the Dutchess County PD's Office is going to help students find the jobs they can't seem to get today.

Ed shows a shocking lack of knowledge about the current legal employment market. Why should he? He graduated from Yale in 1975, and then got a M.Phil. in 1978. He hasn't had to practice law in the last 30 years. Ed's true motives come to light in the third paragraph. He doesn't care about students; he cares only about himself. Like all law professors, he sees the cushy life he has built for himself possibly coming to an end. He needs law school to keep pumping out grads. He needs to keep living in his nice house and driving his nice car. He doesn't care about the fact that his students are suffering in today's job market. So he hopes to change the situation to suit his life better by making such a ludicrous proposal. I hope that when the scam ends, people like Ed Zelinsky are forced to hang out a shingle and compete like dogs with their former students. It is only then that they will see what they have wrought.
President Obama has joined with other critics of contemporary legal education in calling for the reduction of law school to a two year program. The President and these other critics are wrong. Indeed, the remedy they propose for the ills of legal education has it exactly backward. Law school should not be shortened; it should be lengthened. The standard curriculum for a juris doctorate degree should be increased to four years. - See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/add-a-fourth-year-to-law-school/#sthash.lohHbscW.dpuf
President Obama has joined with other critics of contemporary legal education in calling for the reduction of law school to a two year program. The President and these other critics are wrong. Indeed, the remedy they propose for the ills of legal education has it exactly backward. Law school should not be shortened; it should be lengthened. The standard curriculum for a juris doctorate degree should be increased to four years. - See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/add-a-fourth-year-to-law-school/#sthash.lohHbscW.dpuf

41 comments:

  1. This is epic. Epic with a capital "E".

    If there was ever a Clueless Boomer, one so far above the rest that they outshine all the others, this is that one.

    $273k? Son, that's over one-quarter of a million increasingly valueless dollars. That's a lotta money.

    He wants an extra year of law school, in today's economic climate, with today's tuition prices, and given the current and reasonably foreseeable legal market (contracting) not to mention the trends in offshoring, technology (automation) and extreme oversupply.

    Epic.

    I love it.

    This is the Other Side, folks. These are the attitudes of the people on that side. And its all about them. And the money. Make no mistake. Follow da money, honey.

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    1. If this went through, we would soon be seeing graduates with student loan balances of $400-500k.

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  2. By the fruits of the LawProfs shall ye know them. Ed and others similarly situated show a startling lack of awareness of current economic realities and the plight of the average law student. Yes, he knows the detailed, theoretical intricacies of obscure portions of the tax code better than something like 95% of the tax practicioners out there, and he has been paid a handsome sum to do so for 30 years. So that's something.

    But is this surprising? If you were paid to be a model, with an army of full-time physical trainers, hair stylists, and professional photographers at your side, would you take a photogenic picture? If you yourself were paid to play the piano with the New York Symphony Ochestra, would you be a skilled musician? If you were paid to be a full-time personal chef for the rich and famous, would you be able to whip up some mean eggs and grits? To ask the question is to answer it. Ed, being a Yale grad, is from the crowd who gets to do things that many, many, many people don't have access to. I doubt he lived a rags-to-riches existence, and I am sure there are many "Eds" who would love to be in his shoes, but for being born at the wrong time to the wrong families.

    I would love to see him construct a budget for a 2013 law grad with amortized student loan payments, mortgage payments, and everything else. I doubt he could do it. His bubble-existence view of "how the world works" would be as woefully innacurate as it would be hilarious.

    A fourth year of lol skool? Ha. Don't worry, 0Ls, just have your trust fund make the student loan payments.

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    1. Tax professors don't construct budgets, since they don't get paid to do so.

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  3. Four years isn't nearly long enough. Increase this proposal by fourteen (14) years, which will make law school an 18-year odyessy (and lord only knows how expensive), and then we're arriving at a solution.

    An 18-year course of study will force lemmings to say, "Wow! That's consuming a rather large percentage of My Life, and I'll be stuck in student limbo for almost two decades. I'll be in my forties by the time I get out. I don't think it's worth it."

    It achieves the exact same goal many of us are striving for: Don't Go To Law School.

    Oh. And then add a 6-year practicum/internship after that.

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  4. http://www.cardozo.yu.edu/directory/edward-zelinsky

    Edward Zelinsky is a snake-eyed bastard with no principles - other than to do and say anything to keep the scam rolling along until he retires. His $elf-intere$t is evident to anyone with a brain stem. At this point, the pigs have about as much credibility as pawn shop owners and used car salesmen.

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    1. Pawn shop owners...that's a good comparison.

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    2. I think that I will have to disagree with you Nando. I find pawn shop owners and used car salesman to have more credibility than these people.

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  5. The math here is pretty simple. Adding a 4th year of law school will enable schools to keep the same amount of money coming in per year even if their class size is 3/4 of its current size. Law schools can decrease admissions, increasing their selectivity and US news rankings, without risking a decrease in income.

    Since law applications are shrinking, this idea is the obvious way to maintain necessary revenue flows.

    However, since the number of applications is shrinking by more like 50%, law programs should really be 8 years in order to keep the money flowing. However, doing that all at once is probably a non-starter, so we have to make incremental progress, adding a year or two to law school every decade.

    It's all about revenue, but I am sure that arguments could be made about the increasing complexity of the world, practice-readiness, and so forth. Maybe more years of law schools will increase opportunities for minorities or other disadvantaged people. I am sure that must be the case.

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  6. he has a point, although I think he is going in the wrong direction. make law a two year degree with a heavy focus on one particular area. and that is the area you get to practice in. I went to law school wanting to be an ip attorney and have done it pretty successfully for many years. In my career, I have no need to know anything about crim law, family law, wills and trusts and a few other areas. (although from an intellectually curious point of view, i am dlad I do know about other area.) So after a more thourough and in depth education on my speciality, I take a special bar and I am allowed to practice ip law, but cant practice crim law etc. unless I take a special bar/more classes whatever.

    that way in two years you can get out and be ready to practice something, but not everything.

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    1. The problem w/ your proposal is that most law graduates don't have the privilege of practicing in the area they want to when they graduate. They have to take what comes and what they can get a job in. Focusing on one narrow area restricts their ability to get a job in another area if things don't pan out, which they probably won't.

      I, too, had a specific area of law in which I wanted to practice but after graduating, found out that such positions only went to the very privileged. Now I am left just trying to find anything. Limiting what I learned would have been fatal because it would have prevented me from getting ANY type of job in the legal world.

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    2. It would be interesting to see if the market "corrected", though, in a case where specific bars were required for several areas of law. If the criminal law bar was getting glutted, for example, maybe the wills, trusts, and estates bars would be more open.

      But your point is taken, 11:30. And, even if this idea were to work, who wants to be the guinea pig or otherwise fall on the sword until the correction could happen? As you said, flexibility is the only saving grace if at all.

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    3. people would have to do their homework first. just like they should be doing now.

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  7. This is the first time I have ever said this in response to anything written by a law professor on the topic of legal education:

    Is this a joke?

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    1. It has to be a satire. It's quite amusing, in fact.

      Don't you get it?

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  8. No one ever hears the word honesty in law school.

    And this idea is one of the reasons why ...

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  9. If he is actually comparing law school to medical school, he should add that to even apply to law school, one should have already taken 2.5 years of physics, math, biology and chemistry (should weed out 75% of applicants to law school). Then after the second year, law students must sit for an exam -- if they score below 80%, they should leave immediately. Exams should be administered after every year thereafter. In their fourth years, law students should then be matched with law firms who guarantee jobs (location and practice areas dependant on class performance) for four years (with visiting duties in years 3 and 4). Another two years as admin/chief/managing partner should follow. If all this is considered, then we can compare medical school to law school.

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    1. Amen! I love how law profs try to compare law school to med school when it serves them. Of course, they conveniently forget that those that graduate from med school have paid residencies (no unpaid internships) and can actually look forward to employment after doing all that work. Given the stark difference in outcomes, the two are nothing alike. But there I go again, expecting law profs to actually give a damn about their students' outcomes and realize that such outcomes are actually starting to effect the profs' bottom line - maybe after a few 'staff reductions' will the profs begin to see the connection between the two...

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    2. Medical school professors are some of the only academics to make more money than law professors. That must really gnaw at the law profs, especially since the med school profs are able to make that money without cannibalizing their own profession.

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    3. Business professors at top institutions may get paid more than scamprofs. And that's unfair, because they don't use the Socratic Method (TM) and the MBA is a 2-year degree.

      Injustice is everywhere these days.

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  10. "A fourth year would also abate the job-related pressures students currently feel after the second year of law school by giving students another bite of the employment-related apple after their third year."

    I love this logic! Better yet, make law school 40 years. That way, graduates wouldn't have to worry about "job-related pressures" at all and can go straight into retirement. Bingo! We've just solved the legal employment problem.

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  11. OT, but perhaps of interest, from the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

    The dean of Case Western Reserve University’s law school said on Wednesday that he would take a temporary leave of absence, after being sued by a professor who asserted that the dean had retaliated against him for reporting potential sexual harassment, The Plain Dealer reported.

    The professor, Raymond Ku, filed a lawsuit last month against the university and the dean, alleging that he had suffered retaliation for reporting the dean for what he believed was harassment against women. The newspaper reported last month that the university had responded to the professor’s lawsuit by saying that the matter was not an instance of retaliation and that the complaint contained inaccuracies.

    The dean, Lawrence E. Mitchell, sent an email on Wednesday to people at the law school saying that the litigation had “proven to be a distraction to all of us,” adding that he had asked the university to permit him a temporary leave of absence. He said that the university would conduct an independent review of the accusations and that he was confident the review would “affirm that neither I nor the university have done anything wrong or improper.”

    Mr. Mitchell said he intended to take “full advantage of the legal process to seek justice.”

    In a statement cited by the newspaper, the university said it believed Mr. Mitchell had done “the right thing” in taking a leave of absence, asserting that his decision would allow the school “to focus on continuing its recent progress, including a dynamic new curriculum and strong fund raising.”

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    1. You know what this is about, don't you? Other than the dean's own behavior?

      Answer: he increased the working hours of the professors. That gets you sued every time. Under some other pretext, of course.

      Even though the Dean appears to be a pig, I hope he brings this out in court.

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  12. I assume that he is willing to cut his salary by 25%, to hold the line on costs in moving from three to four years of law school...

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  13. I'm all for making Law a 4-year degree...

    ...if it's an intense undergraduate major like engineering and we do away with the JD nonsense (which - having gone through it - I will confirm is nonsense).

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  14. Someone wrote once that anything the government gets involved in, or with, turns to shit.

    He was talking about taxpayer guaranteed student loans and so naturally the beneficiaries of the system will want to squeeze the lemon for as much as they can.

    Why not make a law degree 10 years and a million dollars to borrow for?

    Without consumer bankruptcy protections the scam will go on until the government cannot spare the money anymore, but the staying power of the student lending system seems boundless and sustainable for many years to come.

    Maybe the bottom line is a constitutional challenge of the non dischargeability of student loan debt, and by an intrepid lawyer.

    After all, prior congressional enactments have been turned over by the SCOTUS in history.

    I would think that the bankruptcy attorneys would have an interest, or an organization of bankruptcy attorneys.

    Or am I a naïve and green as grass pumpkin bumpkin on the cabbage cart?

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  15. I'll tell ya, after hearing everyone weigh in lately on how long law school should last, my take is that four (4) years would actually be a good idea. We all know that three (3) years does not make a very useful on-the-job attorney. So why should be water the program down and only make it two (2) years? Stupid idea. Ultimately, what I want is some sanity in the legal employment sector. Reducing law school to 2 years will only make the current situation worse by flooding the market with even more people. With a 4-year program, we get more serious students who actually WANT to be practicing attorneys. Those contemplating whehter to double down on a bad educational decision, e.g., a poly-sci undergrad, will think doubly hard about "floating" into law school because they couldn't find a job or they just need another 4-year vacation away from reality. Seriously, whoever said 2-years, the president included, is delusional. This is simply a supply and demand phenomenon. Anyone who can't accept that fact is delusional. Make it four years, and we will start to see a reduction in the number of attorneys being pumped out. It's as simple as that.

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    1. Yes, that's right. Those that are poor or who don't happen to be born into a marvelously rich family will be precluded from studying law, since they will undoubtedly no longer be able to afford law school (which is happening right now.) Just what we want, right? Keep those disgusting, normal, non-wealthy 'plebies' out of our profession!

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    2. You have a point, but it really doesn't matter if the market is saturated. you're little Johnny is still NOT going to find a job. I can't dictate what laws schools charge for tuition. What I do know is that there are too many attorneys in the U.S. and my informed opinion is that a 2-year program will only exacerbate the situation. Moreover, tell me a time when law hasn't been a rich man's profession? Look at it this way, a 4-year program will "save" all the poor, aspiring law students from a lifetime of indebtedness. Look I'm saving lives...!

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  16. And to add to my point above, at this point I really don't care what happens to future students of law since I've already attended law school, passed my bar exam, etc. But when was the last time you heard of educational standards and program becoming EASIER with time? It used to be pharmacy school was 5 years leading to a B.S. in pharmacy. Now all the pharmacy schools are moving toward the Pharm.D. degree, which is 6 years in length. Off the top of my head I can't think of any educational degree program that has become easier to acquire over time (excluding on-line, diploma mills; we're talking about REAL schools on this board). After 10 years of a 4-year law program, we would start to see a reduction in attorneys to something approaching normal. Now if we can just get rid of all the LLM people, but that's another story.

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    1. "After 10 years of a 4-year law program, we would start to see a reduction in attorneys to something approaching normal."
      I'm not sure if you're being serious or not. But no, if people are willing to commit to $100k+ and 3 years postgraduate study you think an extra year will make much difference?

      This tendency for accreditation requiring more and more years of study unfortunately has little to do with improving the quality of graduates. I'm not exactly sure why it occurs, but there's few good reasons for it. Mostly its just prestige chasing, profit seeking and an (ultimately) futile attempt to try and limit the number of people with accreditation.

      To be honest a law degree should be a bachelors degree like it is in most countries. That way even if people can't find a suitable job at least the debt load and opportunity cost will be much less.

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    2. If there's a limit to the amount of money the gov't is going to lend, and assuming that the tuition rates stay about the same, then there would be a continued reduction in the amount of applicants and moreover the number of new attorneys pumped into the system based on the simple fact that fewer people will actually have the financial resources to enroll in and graduate from law school. Sounds cruel for all the equal opportunity alarmists out there, but it's a supply and demand world out there. The bottom line goal in my view is to REDUCE THE NUMBER OF LAWYERS IN THIS COUNTRY. We can argue about how we get there and if that means that SOME people will be foreclosed from pursuing such an education, then I'm all for it. Again, as I indicated above, I'm not trying to be a dream crusher for all the uninformed, irrational, aspiring law school applicant's, but I'm a realist after being in this lousy profession for over 10 years now. When one dream closes, find another one. When my law firm associate position and I wasn't able to find another law firm gig, I altered my definition of success so tthat I could find happiness. In the end, getting out of the law firms along with the attendant screaming partners, etc, etc. was the best thing that could have happened to me. Again, I'm trying to "save" lives, even people coming from modest means. The reality is if you don't have the $$$ to get you through law school and passing the bar, you're completely wasting your time. There is no half-way success in law. You either have to run the whole marathon, or you're a failure ... depending on one's definition of failure (or success) that is.

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  17. Zelinsky's proposal reflects an unbelievable selfishness. Law professors and law schools get extra revenue, while students get another year of school and +300,000 dollars debt to pay for it all. Much of that debt goes straight down the overhead gullets of greedy law professors who have qualms about destroying their student's lives.

    0Ls be warned: your professors in law school hate you, think of you as a con-man thinks of his victim, and just want to throw you into debt slavery so they can get paid off your suffering.

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  18. Law school should be a 12-16 class undergrad major. You can get a 1 or 2 year masters after that. Then, if you really want, you can get a Phd.

    Restrict access to the profession with a hard bar exam. People who don't pass it can go do something else with their lives.

    Restricting access to the profession by increasing education requirements and lengthening time costs hasn't worked, and just makes people suffer more who jump through all the hoops.

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    1. I wanted to post much the same point as you did, glad I checked the comment section first!

      You want to make law school a four year degree, Prof. Z.? Great idea. Make it an undergrad degree.

      You want to specialize in some narrow trench of law (that, hopefully, you are actually engaged in the practice of), get a masters in "health law" or "tax law" or fucking "space law" or whatever.

      Otherwise, tighten this up to two year of core cirriculum (at most) in an undergrad degree.

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  19. "Imagine a critic of medical education who looked at the explosion of medical science in recent decades and called for less medical schooling."

    Actually, this is completely incorrect. Med School requires two years of classes, then two years of practical rotations where the med students work closely with practicing physicians. The actual "schooling" where students attend classes in only two years. No matter how many clinics law schools open, as most law school professors have minimal practicing experience, law schools are only equiped to provide the critical, theoretical part of legal training.

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    1. though it's mostly self-study, the tests and learning is continuous. Medical Rotations are similar to the Socratic method only called "pimping", where scum attendings ask arcane questions to stump students, hoping to increase ass-kissing and differentiation for the all important match.

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  20. I really don't think his opinion is anything to get upset over. Just one more nobody who tries to distinguish himself from the pack by publishing something controversial. He probably considers it a badge of honor that he showed up here and on guns and money. Remember, any publicity, even bad, is better than no publicity if a nobody is trying to be a somebody. And yes, I consider most law Profs nobodies.

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    1. Agreed. Most of my former law school profs were smarmy little twits that needed a good kick in the ass.

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    2. Most of my former law school profs are smarmy twits I would very much like to kick in the ass!

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  21. "Many critics belittle the substantive business of legal education by dismissing my tax courses as theoretical or doctrinal. But my courses are where my students learn the law and there is much more law to learn than there was a generation ago."

    This quote is typical of the arrogance and magical thinking of a lot of law professors. The classroom is not the only place, nor necessarily the ideal place, to learn the law. Does anyone think that young lawyer would not be better off learning the application of these tax rules from a practicing attorney while making a salary? Or if you really want a fourth year of just tax law, go get an LL.M. at NYU, Georgetown or Florida.

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