Is Law School too Theoretical?

Many people involved in the legal profession now believe that law schools in the United States provide a legal education that is too theoretical and not practical enough. Somewhat surprisingly, those who protest of a lack of practical skills among recent law school graduates are judges and senior partners at law firms. Many of those who advocate retaining the theoretical nature of a legal education are law students.

Lack of Writing Skills 

Judges are becoming increasingly frustrated with novice lawyers who cannot write. They complain of legal briefs crammed with spelling and grammar errors, slang and poorly constructed paragraphs. They also complain of unnecessarily lengthy briefs containing unnecessarily elevated language. Judges often become frustrated with young lawyers who seem to be unfamiliar with the basics of courtroom procedures.

Senior partners at law firms also complain of poor writing skills among new hires. They also complain of freshly minted attorneys with poor people skills and poor math skills. They do not want to leave new associates alone with clients because they do not listen well enough to learn what clients want to accomplish. They are also unable to articulate a strategy for accomplishing the client’s goals. They often do not get along well enough with opposing counsel to be able to negotiate effectively. Senior partners are reluctant to let inexperienced attorneys handle trusts because they are inexperienced as to how to balance trust accounts. They also have issues with keeping accurate timesheets, thereby making billing problematic.

Law Students Want to Learn Legal Theory 

Many law students and the deans of law schools believe that new lawyers need to understand the reasons for the law in order to understand how to practice law. An attorney needs to understand the ideals of due process in order to understand whether due process has been followed or not. An attorney needs to understand what society has agreed constitutes property and what rights individuals have in regard to property in order to understand whether property rights have been violated. It is essential for law students to understand the theory behind contract law if they are to understand whether any particular contract is valid or not, or whether the terms of a contract have been violated.

Practical Skills as Requirements for Admission to Law School 

Perhaps law schools could do more to prepare law graduates for the reality of practicing law, such as through increased internship programs. However, most law schools do offer courses in legal writing and courtroom procedures. Many law students choose not to avail themselves of these courses. Many of the skills that senior law partners and judges complain that new attorneys lack may be beyond the scope of law school, or should be incorporated into the admission procedure for law school. A law student should have basic writing skills before he or she is admitted to law school. A law student should be able to balance and reconcile a bank account.

A lack of skills in interpersonal relationships cuts across all professions and occupations. It may be necessary for law schools to lead the way in remedying this situation, as law school graduates at some point in their law careers will need superior interpersonal skills. They will need to deal with clients, superiors and colleagues in law firms and judges.

Christian Sharpe is a freelance writer who focuses on legal education, legal history and assorted legal topics such as Securities Fraud, Financial Regulation, Banking Law, Corporate Law and others as well.