Bricks on the Brain

UM Law

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Is UM Law too Theoretical?

In Florida legal circles, UM Law is known to emphasize theory (a.k.a. policy) to a greater extent than other Florida law schools. Assumedly theory is emphasized at the expense of practical skills. I have never known anyone to disagree with this assertion, and back when I was researching law schools, I never found a dissenter. I heard all kinds of anecdotes about well-ranked UM Law grads needing their hands held during the first year of practice, while Florida and FSU grads hit the ground speed-walking (as in not quite running, but not crawling either).

From my own observations, I find it hard to believe otherwise. Classes at UM Law incorporate very little real world discussion. Often this fact will be admitted by the professor on day one. Very few of the professors actually practice law. Among those that have practiced, several had remarkably short careers of 5 years or less. UM Law professors rank quite high on Leiter's Scholarly Impact rankings, a fact that in a roundabout way tells us where their priorities are (i.e. publishing). Want a smoking gun? Try Elements: A full semester course of studying useless cases for analysis sake, required of every 1L without exception.

Other Florida law schools have many practicing adjuncts, some quite prominent in their fields. Several have extensive practical seminar programs, often involving off-campus work in real law offices and courtrooms. Sure, we have Lit Skills I & II, but the general consensus seems to feel that it pales in comparison to the scope of some competing programs.

So is this state of affairs good or bad, and for whom? Have I painted the wrong portrait altogether?

9 Comments:

  • At 1:37 PM, Blogger LawFool said…

    I'll give you elments, for sure. This class is fine and all, but I don't think being a moral lawyer can be learned in a class through the case method.

    However, I find most of my other classes to be a run of the mill black letter law affair. There is the social history of how the law is developing, but we are learning what the elments of a K are, what makes a battery battery, why 12(b)6 is every defense lawyers best friend.

    What about the bar? UM had the highest pass rate of any FL school last year (or this year). Is it that we just have better BarBri reps? Maybe. Further, who cares? You're here now. Law school seems, to me, to be one of the biggest "you get out what you put in" affairs.

    Grades are important, but more than that, it is the classes which you choose. Who in their right minds are going to take advanced LRW? Who the hell is going to subject themselves to Civ. Pro II if Alffie is teaching it (I'm not sure he does)? A: The people looking to get the kind of skills a good lawyer needs. Not the kid looking at what the final will be like (Oh, just a paper and class participation is 50% of your grade! Sweet.)

    UM, UF, FSU, what have you... I thought it was all about the kind of suit you own and car you drive anyway.

     
  • At 7:05 PM, Blogger some guy said…

    i agree. there should be more clinics. that was one of the things i was really concerned about when weighing coming here or a 'lesser' school.

    i think law school should be about more than just your grades.

     
  • At 9:10 PM, Blogger Bricklayer said…

    Lawfool-
    I disagree with most of what you said, although when I was a 1L I agreed with most of it.

     
  • At 3:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What parts don't you agree with? You think being a moral lawyer can be taught through the case method? Do you find that most first year classes do not teach BLL? Do you disagree that UM had the highest bar pass rate? Do you not agree that law school is what you put into it? Do you think grades are more important than the subject matter studied? And/Or, do you think that it isn't about the car and clothes (I'm taking this last bit to be a joke, but in the spirit of being inclusive)?

    Or is it that you'd just rather be dismissive without having to state a basis besides lawfool being a silly little inexperianced 1L?

     
  • At 3:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What parts don't you agree with? You think being a moral lawyer can be taught through the case method? Do you find that most first year classes do not teach BLL? Do you disagree that UM had the highest bar pass rate? Do you not agree that law school is what you put into it? Do you think grades are more important than the subject matter studied? And/Or, do you think that it isn't about the car and clothes (I'm taking this last bit to be a joke, but in the spirit of being inclusive)?

    Or is it that you'd just rather be dismissive without having to state a basis besides lawfool being a silly little inexperianced 1L?

     
  • At 8:14 AM, Blogger Bricklayer said…

    > What parts don't you agree with?

    Most, see below.

    > You think being a moral lawyer can be taught through > the case method?

    I had not intended for morality to enter the discussion. Of course I do not think that morality is taught in law school. However, when you get to your ethics course you will encounter the use of hypos and cases to show ethical conundrums that lawyers find themselves in. There is some value to this approach.

    But I was referring to practical skills. Some of these skills, which receive some attention at other schools are: drafting skills (contracts in particular), client and witness interviewing skills, negotiation skills, financial issues surrounding law firms, etc.. As Mr. Wolf mentioned, these things are usually taught in what are called "clinics" by other law schools.

    > Do you find that most first year classes do not teach > BLL?

    Compared to other schools, you will cover less of the BLL and focus heavily on the policy considerations of the BLL that you do learn. To prove this, go online and download outlines from your collegues at other schools. You will use on average about half of your textbook for each class.

    > Do you disagree that UM had the highest bar pass rate?

    I don't disagree, I think its great. But its just one test session. Last time around we were 4th. If the trend continues, thats great for us. But I wouldn't count on it continuing. In any case, what does it prove relative to our discussion?

    >Do you not agree that law school is what you put into >it?

    Yes and no. There are opportunities for practical experience that are simply not offered here, but are at other schools. To some extent, summer employment can mitigate this problem, but for many (particularly 1L's) finding a summer position is difficult. When we are talking about "what [we] put into it" and mean hard work, I agree 100%. But if "what [we] put into it" is the $90K of tuition, then I'm not so sure.

    >Do you think grades are more important than the >subject matter studied?

    When employers examine your resume/transcript, your grades are absolutely more important than the subjects. They realize that you'll forget most of what you learned for any class 5 minutes after the exam. So in that sense, we agree.
    But they also look at experience, be it through work or school. And if you have depo taking experience on your resume, even if its only simulated, that's a plus over someone who does not.

    >And/Or, do you think that it isn't about the car and >clothes (I'm taking this last bit to be a joke, but in >the spirit of being inclusive)?

    If you believed that, you'd be spending your tuition on an S500.

    >Or is it that you'd just rather be dismissive without >having to state a basis besides lawfool being a silly >little inexperianced 1L?

    You are neither silly nor inexperienced. You are, like I and my contemporaries were, impressed by what you are learning. We assumed that because it was so difficult to master, and was coming from such learned professors, that it must be usefull. We quickly learned after the first semester that we would forget it all anyway. After the first summer jobs, we realized law school had little to do with law practice.

    All I'm saying is that I doubt that a year from now you'll have such high regard for the practicality of what you're presently learning.

    Anyways, what the hell are you doing posting at 4am?

     
  • At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't know if UM is too theoretical, but Leiters rankings make me proud (especially since I didn't get in to Florida). Seriously - look at Leiter's rankings - UM is tied with Duke!

     
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