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What Cornell Veterinary School Can Teach Us About Legal Education

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_ blog/2018/09/what-cornell massivemissive09/20/18
Veterinary schools are a scam similar to law schools. Not C wutwutwut09/20/18
Vet school is a bad idea for most because there's no insuran onehell09/20/18
Agree on the legal side with the notion that there is "no sh wutwutwut09/20/18
The problem with comparisons to any kind of science educatio onehell09/20/18
I'd be all for any the reforms you mentioned, and I fully ag 6figuremistake09/20/18
I concur in part. If they did everything you suggested, then thirdtierlaw09/20/18
Well again, there is a problem created by the fact that if y onehell09/20/18
I don't disagree that the nuts and bolts may vary from State thirdtierlaw09/20/18
Really, any discussion about legal education is all smoke an toooldtocare09/20/18
I know a Cornell alumni vet. She tells me that people pay $ massivemissive09/20/18
Still tons of money to be made for any given anecdotal lawye wutwutwut09/20/18
6figuremistake said: "Law schools essentially graduate a bun caj11109/21/18
Yes, most other common law countries have articling. It's no onehell09/21/18
massivemissive (Sep 20, 2018 - 8:17 am)


Every week there seems to be a new article on how law schools can improve their curriculum or teaching methods.

It's a lot of empty words.

Putting aside the fact that all of the changes in the world won't improve employment prospects until supply/demand for lawyers changes, the real change that needs to happen, but won't, is for the teaching market to become less focused on whether a candidate went to Yale, clerked for a COA and published a law review, but whether the candidate can teach effectively and perhaps has some experience as a lawyer. This would also mean that the hide the ball, meandering classroom discussions would be left in the dustbin and new teaching techniques employed.

I remember walking out of 6 weeks of Barbri thinking, "why wasn't law school like that?" I learned more law in 6 weeks than in 3 years.

I know all of this has been discussed before, but here we are 10 years after the crash and really nothing has changed in the legal academy.

wutwutwut (Sep 20, 2018 - 10:56 am)

Veterinary schools are a scam similar to law schools. Not Cornell, or course, similar to the way Cornell Law is not - itself - a scam school.

But overall, last time I looked at it** the debt loads were similar and they were approaching 45% of newgrads not getting jobs that require the DVM the same way new LS grads aren't getting JD required jobs.

And median pay for veterinarians actually working as vets was under $50K.

Not a good reason to go $300K in debt.

Yet the vets schools just keep increasing numbers of admits.

** IIRC, this was 2 or 3 years ago, but may have been longer and it's possible outcomes have improved in the interim.

onehell (Sep 20, 2018 - 1:31 pm)

Vet school is a bad idea for most because there's no insurance, so they can only charge what people can afford to pay out of pocket. That's really the same problem lawyers have: Unless it's a contingent fee case, private clients pay out of pocket. Unless the client is a big company, that pocket simply will not be very deep.

To me, that really is the problem. Outside of personal injury and fee-shifters like civil rights, both of which require a large investment by the lawyer creating a "takes money to make money" problem, lawyers who represent regular folk can't charge a price commensurate with their educational investment unless their clients can find a way to pay it.

That, in a nut shell, is why there is no shortage of legal need but there is a massive shortage of actual *demand*. If someone else, like an insurance company, were footing the bill then lawyers would have no shortage of clients. As it stands though, law school needs to get a lot cheaper and a lot of law schools need to close. It's either that, or we create a sort of Medicaid equivalent by which poor and lower middle class people can access legal services. Otherwise, it's simply a problem created by the fact that there just aren't enough rich people to go around.

wutwutwut (Sep 20, 2018 - 4:21 pm)

Agree on the legal side with the notion that there is "no shortage of legal need but there is a massive shortage of actual *demand* ".

But wonder if there is an analogy to the veterinary side of things. I don't think there is, but I don't have data.

On the insurance thing, I don't know how prevalent it really is, but pet medical insurance seems pretty common around here (affluenza, I guess).

I never bothered but a lot of people I know do carry it. For me, and this may sound cruel, but if one of my dogs needs a $2500 hip replacement, he's going down.

onehell (Sep 20, 2018 - 12:57 pm)

The problem with comparisons to any kind of science education is that science is science. The same bacteria will produce the same infection regardless of whether you are in New York or California or Zimbabwe. That makes it much easier to have a "practical" curriculum.

And in any event, as Campos has said, the whole Practical Pedagogy thing is a red herring anyway. The problem isn't uselessness of curriculum, it's that there aren't enough jobs and that law school costs too much. There's a reason everyone takes the same classes in 1L, employers make their decisions based only on 1L GPA/rank, etc, and there's a reason almost everything after 1L is elective.

Law school should be a one-year masters, and there should be about half as many law schools as there are today. Anything that doesn't move us in that direction is just moving the deck chairs around on the titanic.

Obviously, we can't get that far, so the incremental step would be this: ABA revises accreditation standards to allow the elimination of 3L year and feds cap federal loans at a level meant to correct for the fact that there's no reason other than loan availability for tuition to rise faster than general inflation (so cap loans commensurate with median tuition as it was at the inception of the direct loan program in the early 1990s). In order to protect against too much eagerness by private lenders to step back in and fill the gap, tell private lenders that they can only receive bk protection if they offer terms substantially similar to the feds e.g. no cosigners, similar interest rates, income-based repayment options etc. Deviate from that and you'll be treated just like any other unsecured creditor.

None of the needed reforms have anything to do with making the curriculum more practical.

6figuremistake (Sep 20, 2018 - 1:28 pm)

I'd be all for any the reforms you mentioned, and I fully agree the biggest problems are the cost and that market really has no need for any additional lawyers - at least not at the rate JD's are currently being pumped out.

That said, I think law grads would certainly benefit from a more practical education - or at least have a more pragmatic track available to them. When a student graduates from law school he is probably no better equipped to handle actual legal matters (unless he took a clinic or something) than he was when he started school.

Law schools essentially graduate a bunch of jr. legal theorists. Most legal secretaries and other informed laymen would likely be of more assistance to a potential client than your average (or even above average) recent JD. It's like sending a car mechanics to three years of graduate school in theoretical physics without teaching him how to use a wrench.

I get that laws/procedures change by state, but that would just mean law students should take courses in the states they plan to practice. Once you get the hang of one state, it would be easier to adapt to a new jurisdiction than just starting cold as we do now. Certain practices like bankruptcy and immigration don't even have this issue.

The top 14 or so schools could remain theoretical as their students tend to be picked up based upon pedigree rather than practical ability anyway. Most everyone else is headed to mid/small law (if they can get a job). Right now, they're pretty much worthless to an employer. If the schools have to charge $50k, they could at least give their grads some marketable skills.

thirdtierlaw (Sep 20, 2018 - 1:37 pm)

I concur in part. If they did everything you suggested, then I wouldn't mind seeing a year 2 practical skills program. But it should be treated like residency, even if it doesn't take place at law firms. Some students will go on an M/A tract, some family law, some civil litigation, etc. and then instead of a bar exam take a page out of the financial industry and offer a law version of the series exam. My school was really big on emphasizing that, "Law School isn't a trade school," but now that I've been in practice a few years, I don't know why it shouldn't be. I was fortunate enough to work in a clinic and do a semester-long internship, so I at least knew a little bit about how to practice, but even then I felt lost most of my first year. There is something to be said for at least teaching the basics, but instead, they are giving people the ability to wax poetically about Neff v. Pennoyer and international shoe.

onehell (Sep 20, 2018 - 1:49 pm)

Well again, there is a problem created by the fact that if you teach the nuts and bolts, then whose nuts and bolts do you teach? The law can be very different jurisdiction to jurisdiction and due to innumerable local rules and idiosyncrasies, sometimes even county to county. And these days, you have to be geographically flexible for that first job out, there's no assurance that you'll be practicing in the state where you went to law school. I mean sure, there is SOME general stuff that is useful anywhere, like trial advocacy. Or maybe a transactions class, like 1L contracts class might involve I dunno, actually looking at contracts rather than just caselaw. All for tweaks like that. But there will always be a certain theoretical foundation that law school is primarily there to teach over a trade school mindset.

As practical as the STEMedicine curricula gets to be, and as nice as it sounds to make the legal curriculum just as practical, I think it's apples and oranges to compare the two.

The state supreme courts can of course make whatever rules they want. So they could create graduated licensing, like you can get a license to practice under supervision immediately but can't get an independent license where you could hang a shingle unless you have a certain number of years experience, but that could only work in a world where supply and demand were in some semblance of balance such that people would actually be able to get those hours. That's how it works for social workers and licensed counselors: There is no residency system but they have to get a couple of years' worth of supervised hours before they can get an independent license, and they're on their own to find a way to get those hours. And it's post-graduate so it really has nothing to do with the schools at all, it's just a decision made by the licensing authority.

thirdtierlaw (Sep 20, 2018 - 3:11 pm)

I don't disagree that the nuts and bolts may vary from State to state or even county to county. The school should pick one and teach that. There is a large amount of overlap in the rules and it's much easier to learn when it's, "Oh here are how the rules differ" than starting with a blank slate. I think of my first few cases in federal court coming from State court. It didn't take me long to pick up the differences.

Someone mentioned mechanics above. Mechanics don't leave their training and school having worked on every single make and model of cars. But they've worked on enough of them, that with rare exceptions they can figure out must cars that come into the shop and know where to look to see/handle differences.

I'm not saying it is a perfect solution. But as you highlighted in your post, I had to buy a book "working with contracts: what law school doesn't teach you" to learn the fundamentals of contract drafting. How was that not taught in school?

Another example is how my writing classes were taught. Maybe it was just my own terrible school, but I think my legal writing class consisted of me writing 2 motions. My appellate advocacy class had me write 1 brief. Which is great, those are important skills for litigators, but now that I'm in practice, I'm filing at least 2-4 substantive motions a month on a wide variety of issues. Even if law school focused on making me a better writer, it never taught us how to write a lot of motions well, in a short period of time.

If I was designing a law school curriculum, I'd give all the students black letter law books, and have students working on multiple projects regarding those black letter law principles throughout the semester. Though it wouldn't be completely realistic because attorneys don't typically do both, have the contract class, have people drafting a contract as well as defending or prosecuting a breach of contract case. You can still introduce all the classic cases, they'll need read the case law to defend or prosecuting a breach of contract, it'll also give them a fuller perspective because they'll be thinking about those things while drafting as well. Sure the amount of work/grading for the professor just grew exponentially, but the students would be leaving much better informed.

toooldtocare (Sep 20, 2018 - 3:32 pm)

Really, any discussion about legal education is all smoke and mirrors. The problem with the profession is that there are too many lawyers, and too many new JDs cranked out every year, and unless and until that's fixed-and that does not seem likely-the legal profession will remain a mess.

massivemissive (Sep 20, 2018 - 4:18 pm)

I know a Cornell alumni vet. She tells me that people pay $6k for cat chemotherpy even if it has to go on the credit card.

People are crazy about their pets. There’s still money to be made.

wutwutwut (Sep 20, 2018 - 4:46 pm)

Still tons of money to be made for any given anecdotal lawyer, too.

I'm not really trying to be snarky, just saying we're looking from the outside in. My own pets' vet employs 3 other vets in his office and appears to be making a killing at it.

I checked for more recent information about DVM graduate outcomes and it doesn't seem so easy to find, but a survey of 2016 graduates summarized by AVMA (have to be a member to get at the actual data) indicates some swings, but not largely different than what I mentioned above.

- 55% found full time employment, up from 49% in 2015. I assume they mean as veterinarians, but there's no breakdowns like the ABA is now requiring for LS.
- I'm not sure how to read the above in conjunction with, "93 percent... had found full-time employment or received offers to pursue postgraduate education". Does that mean nearly 40% go on to more advanced degrees? (Kicking can down road because unemployed? I dunno. Also, "received offers"?)
- An average indebtedness was $144K (not sure if that's amount borrowed or amount at graduation including interest stacked).
- mean starting salary for new graduates increased to more than $58,000 (but this number appears to include those going after further education and residencies, etc. So the real number may be higher/more favorable for the fully employed??)


caj111 (Sep 21, 2018 - 8:38 am)

6figuremistake said: "Law schools essentially graduate a bunch of jr. legal theorists. " I think that about hits it on the head. In my opinion, law school has become not much more than a professional liberal arts degree. It is also a fact that a little less than half of all those sworn into the bar will ever enter a courtroom again, unless they're serving jury duty.

I also agree that to practice law, there should be something similar to a medical residency. Supposedly, such a requirement does exist in Canada, referred to as being "articled", working in sort of an apprentice capacity at a law firm or clerking for a judge. I hear that while most law graduates in Canada doing their "article" get paid for it, some work for free, because there isn't enough paid work to go around. Essentially, the same problem as here but to a lesser extent I guess. Not enough work to go around here period, paid or otherwise.

onehell (Sep 21, 2018 - 12:45 pm)

Yes, most other common law countries have articling. It's not quite like residency though. My understanding is that while there's some oversight of firms that provide formal articling, it's fundamentally more like apprenticeship - you work on whatever they have to work on and learn whatever you happen to pick up in the process.

That's unlike medicine, where the MD degree is technically considered your "undergraduate medical education." The residency is the "GME" (graduate medical education) and the providers of GME have "faculty" and a "curriculum" which is overseen and accredited by the ACGME. You do treat real patients of course, but what you learn is not just whatever happens to come through the door. Hence the term "teaching hospital." They really are educational as well as clinical providers; it's not just an apprenticeship but a true educational program. You can't just get a job at some random rural hospital, work there for X number of years, and call it a residency. You're being taught, not just getting a certain number of hours of experience as you would with a graduated licensing system which is more like what I think the articling stuff is.

So as I mentioned above, it's more like graduated licensing than residency. And those countries, by the way, have a glut problem too. I think that in the UK and Canada it is widely known that there are significantly more LLB graduates than there are articling slots.

On the one hand, that's worse because people who can't get a first job can't even practice. But on the other hand, since their "law school" is really just an undergraduate major, it's not the end of the world. People who can't find somewhere to apprentice aren't in crippling debt and they haven't communicated to the world that they're only interested in one thing by getting a "doctorate" in it." So they're probably more able to just give up and do something else.

Bottom line is, I could see going to graduated licensing, but not a true residency system as law firms do train people but would not be willing to turn themselves into schools or have their training programs accredited and regulated.

But with graduated licensing, you'd first have to also do something to make it so that the people who can't get a slot aren't just screwed for life. A good way to do that would be to follow another aspect of the European model and make the 1L curriculum into either an undergraduate major leading to an LLB, and/or a one-year masters (which I believe is known as a "conversion course" in the UK).

There's a reason the bar pretty much solely tests 1L subjects: I actually think you really do need the theoretical foundation. The issue is that this foundation can be taught in a year. And frankly, it already kinda is, which is why almost everything after 1L is an elective.

That said, even the discussion of reforming a theoretical educational model is itself theoretical. It's a much lower priority than real reforms that could actually, practically, be implemented now. The easiest one, the low hanging fruit, is to start by getting rid of the third year. The ABA could do that with the stroke of a pen. Schools would probably just raise their per-credit prices to make up for the lost tuition, but at least you'd save a year of living expenses and capitalizing loan interest.

The second priority, more difficult as it would require congressional action but still possible, would be capping federal loans at a level that stops tuition from rising any faster than general inflation, and eliminating bankruptcy-proofing for any loan that doesn't have an IBR option, such as private loans. The third priority, albeit a much more politically difficult one given popular hatred for lawyers, would be to hugely increase funding for legal aid, perhaps by creating a sort of "Civil Gideon" so that all those poor people dealing with evictions and divorces and administrative hearings and whatnot can all have counsel. That truly would serve a vital need while also providing massive number of jobs for lawyers.

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