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Legal Daily News Feature

Legal Education: Shifting the Paradigm By Rebecca E. Neely In light of the economic downturn, technological advancements, and the many resulting legal issues regarding privacy, financial regulation, intellectual property, the outsourcing of legal work for a lower cost, and the manner in which business is conducted in an increasingly global marketplace, the world appears to be changing, seemingly, by the nanosecond. Law, legal education and the legal profession have oft been criticized for being unable to keep pace with these changes.

12/05/11 Specifically, the cost of a legal education is astronomical, yet the number of people making up the poor and the middle class continues to grow, and yet, it’s these very same people who are unable to afford legal assistance. Add to that many new graduates are unable to find a job, and the handwriting is on the wall: it is time, or rather, past time, to shift the paradigm. According to the November 26th nytimes.com article, “Legal Education Reform”, to accomplish this shift, many law schools must move to a more relevant instructional and business model. As well, the legal profession must renew its responsibility and its commitment, to serve both the public interest and clients. Per the article, a 2007 report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching pointed to law schools as a major contributor to the current issues because they give “only casual attention to teaching students how to use legal thinking in the complexity of actual law practice.”

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The article points out that some law schools are embracing change and trying to keep pace. Rather than teaching students merely through the case method – a practice the article deems a ‘relic’ – some schools are beginning to offer more hands-on type work, via clinics, shaping them as advocates, negotiators, problem solvers, and well, let’s just say it: thinkers – something the world seems to be acutely lacking in at times, in my opinion. In addition, some schools, recognizing the need for survival, are looking at ways of reducing tuition; some are exploring curriculums that offer two years of instruction and a year of apprenticeship. Per the article, “the choice is not between teaching legal theory or practice; the task is to teach useful legal ideas and skills in more effective ways.” To achieve this, the underlying belief and view must shift; the practice of law must be seen as a tool; a powerful means for solving problems. It is my belief that many law professors and lawyers already believe, and practice this mode of thought. However, for the legal profession to grow and change, this concept must be embraced across the board, or bar, as it were.

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Legal Education: Shifting the Paradigm  

In light of the economic downturn, technological advancements, and the many resulting legal issues regarding privacy, financial regulation,...

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