June 11, 2009
The Horse’s Mouth
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

So what do the real lawyers think about the job we in the academy are doing training the corporate lawyers of tomorrow? The news from the front is generally good, at least according to yesterday morning’s panel, Perspectives from Practice. I had to duck out of the session early, but here are a few highlights:

James D.C. Barrall wants us to teach students how to draft a memo, not a law review article. He thinks we do a good job teaching students how to think and analyze. One improvement would be to teach students how to write better. [Blogger note: this is one of my bugaboos. Writing skills are crucial, but law school isn’t really set up to teach them. Apparently high schools and colleges are falling down on the job.] He also emphasized communication skills, and how important understanding and even empathizing with your client is. [Blogger note: asking law school professors to teach “soft” style interpersonal skills might appear to some like asking the blind leading the blind].

Andrew Petillon suggested three new areas for course offerings: Regulation of Investment Advisors or Companies (1940 Act); Regulation of Broker-Dealers; and Securities Enforcement and Litigation. [Blogger note: we do teach that last one at Georgia.] Several speakers stressed the importance of taking Securities Regulation. [Blogger note: I cannot echo this enough. My students know that I am adamant on this point. My spiel goes like this: “you can’t learn everything in law school, but you should take classes that it would be difficult to pick up on the fly. Securities Regulation is just such a class.”]

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to Michael A. Woronoff, who I know is a Glom reader. A contrarian, he advised law schools to stick with their comparative advantage—teaching doctrinal classes—and leave the skills training to law firms. [Blogger note: I had to duck out in the middle of Michael’s talk, but I’ll raise a counterpoint here: these days it’s all too clear that many students will not go the Big Law route and thus will never experience all that great training. Indeed, most Georgia students start out at small to midsize firms, if they go the law firm route at all.] As Michael acknowledged, the trend is the reverse, introducing more skills training into legal education. Indeed, that was the subject of my panel: Integrating Transactional Law in the Traditional Courses.

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