The Right Amount|of Learning

     Let’s do away with law schools.
     OK, I know that sounds a bit extreme and law school administrators might not be happy with the concept, but hear me out.
     President Barack Obama the other day proposed limiting law classes to two years and then sending students out to clerk or get coffee for people in law firms.
     The California bar, as I noted in July, also wants to send hapless students out into the real world – but only after they’ve taken even more classes.
     The problems with these arguments are obvious.
     Is there a magic number of law school years needed to prepare a competent lawyer? Why not one or four instead of two or three?
     And how are you going to convince thousands upon thousands of lawyers and law firms to take in thousand and thousands of aspiring students and supervise them?
     Reality check, please.
     The debate inspired a Wall Street Journal article last week with the headline: “Legal Education on Trial: Is the Third Year Necessary?”
     Well, is it? Why are you asking us? We want answers, damn it!
     Let’s pause for a moment to consider an issue I consider equally important: the appropriate use of puns.
     Puns should not be left in the hands of amateurs.
     If you’ll look at the Wall Street Journal piece, you’ll see it’s accompanied by a chart showing that law school tuition has been going up. Why we needed a chart to tell us this, I don’t know.
     The headline for the chart is: “Bar Hopping.”
     What does this mean?
     What is hopping? Is there any hopping involved here whatsoever?
     Tuition isn’t hopping – it’s steadily rising. Even it were hopping, the bar itself wouldn’t be doing it. And no one is hopping to different bars.
     Irresponsible pseudo-puns like these give legitimate hard-working logical puns a bad name.
     I urge you to write to the editors of the Wall Street Journal to complain.
     Now back to legal education.
     Fortunately, there’s a real-world model we can use to solve this problem: barber colleges.
     As some of you may know, barber colleges put their students to work. People can walk into a barber college and donate their hair for experimentation by students learning their trade.
     You may not get a great haircut, but it’s cheap.
     Consider all the problems this would solve for lawyers.
     Law firms would have a very good reason to take in students: money. Those escalating tuitions would be paid to law firms instead of law schools.
     Students would get a break too. Generate billable hours and they’d be deducted from tuition.
     More clients would be served. If a client can’t afford a full-fledged lawyer, he or she can opt for a student at a lower rate.
     You may not get a great lawsuit, but it’s cheap. And there’s always malpractice litigation for students at another firm.
     What about law schools? Will professors be going on welfare?
     Of course not. All we have to do is convert law schools into law firms.
     Professors become partners. Students become intern/associates. Mrs. Palsgraf becomes a real person hit by a bus.
     And no one graduates until they’ve hit 6,000 billable hours and haven’t been sued for malpractice.
     Bar exams will not be necessary.

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