The silliest belief involving "da scam" is to think that the schools will reform themselves. One of the most common refrains, especially from in-the-establishment soft-boiled "reformers", is to make law school more "practical", and teach you "how to practice". Practice, practice, practice, and jobs will magically appear! Even Professor Dumbledumb and the Scamdeans wouldn't object too much, as long as the "practice" part is only a small fraction of law school—which is the problem. From a comment on JD Underground, someone was trying to defend their law school, a highly-ranked school which is nonetheless scarcely known outside of the state and probably does not place any better than other schools:
Washington & Lee is actually one of the very few schools who take teaching practice seriously, and have done what so many on this board have advocated: replace third year with essentially a bunch of immersion experiences where you do quazi-real legal work, as opposed to attending lectures. It's clearly not perfect, and a far cry from a real two-year paid residency (minimum) that is needed, but given the constraints of the current system, it's something...
Alas, this "immersion" does nothing to help us! It is doomed like a prostitute in purgatory, for two biggies:
One, we don't really care about any particular school, but about all legal education. One school could improve its placement stats, but it doesn't help anyone else. W&L can teach Swahili Common Law if they wish to, and it wouldn't help or hurt anything because the problem is with the market's limited supply of legal jobs. That market cannot (and does not want to) place the nearly 45,000-strong army of new J.D.'s birthed every spring. So the objection that others have already stated, that any improvement in an individual school's career services, or pedagogy, would not increase the supply of jobs but only help one school's graduates at the expense of the other schools', defeats the point of W&L's newfound admiration of actual legal skills. It is like stealing from your neighbors during a famine and pretending that you have solved world hunger.
Two, what "they" have not bothered to say is that the effort to teach skills is doomed for another, darker reason: it would render the purpose of law school obsolete. The more practice-based skills a school teaches, the more people will question whether any law school is needed at all. After all, if you want to know skills, the only way (or, at the least, by far the most efficient way) is to do them, on the job. But then, why pay tuition for on-the-job training? Why pay the Professor Dumbledumbs of academia $55,000 grand a year for the privilege of taking an "externship" in the third year of that? (When you are already 175k in the red). You may as well be one of those work-for-free-to-build-experience-while-mommy-pays-rent types, since even working for free is a better deal than paying $55 grand a year and working for free. This is why the schools only permit talk of outsourcing for the "third-year", leaving the first two years of love intact. W&L has inadvertently confessed that the third-year of law school isn't necessary, or they could not have afforded to forgo 1/3 of classes that a law graduate would have normally taken. The JDU poster didn't mention that. If it is so important to "think like a lawyer", but the third year can be spent on "immersion experiences", then surely we can learn to "think like a lawyer" in two years? And if "immersion experiences" are just as valuable, or even more valuable than lecture halls, why not drop the formal legal education entirely? Or send it back to undergrad, so we can get our L.L.B. in four years and stop this madness?
So there you have it: The more value we place on "immersion" (i.e., real-life work that actually is connected with what clients want), the less value we place on badly-run Socratic method-based lectures. But what will happen to the Professor Dumbledumbs and their precious never-read-except-by-the-editors-who-laugh-at-them journals?Oh no! The more law schools attempt to "modernize", the more they defeat their own purpose for existing. The way schools like W&L are going, turning the third year into a virtual apprenticeship, should make us question the point of any law school at all.
Preston Bell (premeditatedmeditations.com) is the author of the (free) book-length satire/exposé, Smarter Than Socrates: The End of the Law School Era.