Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bet You Didn't Know that Legal Research and Writing was NOT Required at Every Law School.....

As our readers know, law schools do a horrible job of preparing one to be an attorney.  The day after graduation, family and friends come out of the woodwork and ask you for legal services varying from writing wills to reviewing leases to suing the local TGIF for a slip and fall.  The irony, of course, is that you are unable to assist any of them. You have no real skills.  So, you MUST work for a law office or a non-profit or somewhere to learn how to do what you thought you went to law school for three years to learn--how to practice the law.

Surprisingly, there's a First Tier school that is WORSE at preparing you for real life than others.  Apparently, the University of Texas School of Law is notorious for not preparing students for life.  Apparently, UTLS [my own acronym] has developed a bit of a reputation for not considering the future of their graduates as practicing attorneys.  Of course, that's probably true of most law schools--but I would venture to say that UT is worse.  They don't require Legal Research and Writing as a first year class!  "In a survey of accredited law schools, Texas was the only school without a mandatory brief-writing course. In fact, only about half of first-year students surveyed reported being able to get into a brief-writing course. As a result, they will not be trained how to present arguments to a court — one of the most basic legal skills."
Since that is the only class in law school that is somewhat practical, you can imagine how their graduates feel floating in the legal industry on a raft of incompetence and lack of practical skills.

Judge Harry Edwards once wrote a scathing review of Law Schools, and UT in particular, when  a well known UT constitutional law professior confided to the judge that he was "unwilling to redirect his activities in useful ways," even though he recognized that the school's approach to a legal education was failing the graduates in their long term career goals.  Then, just recently, a law professor at UT delayed releasing his grades by two months--costing a student a summer internship (the spots were filled while he awaited the grade).  Also, at an ALI conference, a UT professor said, “In the academy we are tending too much to pretend that we are a think tank and a graduate school and forgetting that the high percentage of our graduates are going to go into the practice of law and ought know at least a little about what lawyers do and how they ought to do it.”
Hmmm.. I thought all law students seek to practice the law. Nonetheless, very observant.

A well-known lawyer even wrote to the UTLS dean, informing him that his graduates are "incompetent legal writers and he would never hire a UT Law graduate again.

But, instead of taking the advice and criticisms to heart, and changing the curriculum to make better lawyers, UTLS is actually making the situation worse. "UT Law instead chooses to steer law students away from taking practical courses by offering grossly grade-inflated first-year electives on such totally impractical topics as Race and Gender in the Constitution.  The first-year curve in all courses is set at 3.3; the average in these “electives” is a 3.8." 

Race and Gender?   That has got to be the fluffiest class ever.  Furthermore, to reward students that are avoiding bar subjects with a higher GPA is a little wacky. I only took bar classes, so that I could pass the bar.  I thought that was a practical use of my time. This set-up allows kids to pursue higher GPAs in lieu of practical skills.

"A student in Race and Gender in the Constitution commented, “The class is a complete joke and a waste of time, but the professor gives almost everyone A’s.” Since law students’ employment is determined by their first-year GPA, creating such an exception to the curve is unfair to other students and misleading to employers relying on the veracity of student transcripts."

What a joke.  And this is considered a T1?  It's no wonder that lawyers are unemployable.


  1. L.O.L. Good find, Angel. I developed better writing and research skills in college than in law school while having more fun and paying less money. Friends have admitted to me that they became dumber in law school because there were very few classes that taught practical skills. I felt that I had wasted three years of my life and left law schools with only one legal research and writing class that had somewhat prepared me for firm work. The class was dreadful and I hated it but learning how to do research on Lexis and Westlaw was probably the only practical skill from law school that I still use and could apply in another field. How any law school thinks they can get away with this is beyond my comprehension.

  2. Actually UT is one of the better schools, I believe UT and Berkeley are the only two high ranked law schools that have an in-state tuition option, which means students at these schools have maybe a third of the debt of those from private schools.

    I learned nothing in my legal research and legal writing course. Most attorneys will never see the inside of a court room anyway, and won't actually write legal arguments. But even for those that do (I have and do) the general consensus seems to be that legal research and legal writing is really simple. There's really not much you can do actually, you might want to check bigdebtsmallaw I believe he's actually covered what legal writing is. If you've written a law school essay you pretty much know what you need to write, but even if beyond that most states require essays on the bar exam and some require a practical portion of the exam as well. You learn most of the law you need from bar/bri, so if you didn't know how to perform legal writing well you can learn that form there too.

    I think the legal writing classes are another total waste of time in law school and the last vestiges of the scam hype train for what law school prepares you for. Law school should only be a year long, and if you want a writing course in that year that's fine, but I don't think it makes one iota of difference. If that's the only legal writing you've done between law school and as an attorney, you'd have forgotten how to do any of the work in the 2+ years anyway. I don't agree that this is a problem at all.

  3. I went to UT, class of 2008. This post ranges from misleading to flat out false: There is a mandatory legal research and writing course. The brief-writing course is separate and optional. It is not always possible to get in as a 1L, but you typically can get in during 2L or 3L year if you want to.

    Don't take me word for it:

    You'll notice "legal research and writing" is one of the required courses. You do write memos in that class, just not briefs (or, at least, not long briefs). That being said, like most legal research and writing courses, it was pretty useless; the profs even insist on using a non-bluebook citation manual that nobody in the real world uses.

  4. I can verify that the ABA will consider waiving the Legal Writing and Research Requirement or allow the school to offer it as a zero credit elective. As a side note, My school considered this route but went against it, thank God. Imagine doing all that work for zero credits and have a full course load beside.

    According to the site inspection guy, if the class' LSAT scores are high enough; you can waive the requirement. In ABA logic, a high LSAT score means you can magically write a Memo or Appellate Brief. It's just inbreed somehow,- like geese flying South in the Winter. I know a few Vault 100 firms that want to sit the T10 schools/ABA down and review misguided assumption.

    IS it just me? When you talk to the ABA about school; they love to talk about theory or the BAR Exam pass rate. When I try to talk to them about practical issues or employment, they get glossy eyed and excuse themselves.

  5. Anon @ 11:14
    I didn't come up with this post out of my ass. It's been written about by a judge and it comes from an article. If you have qualms with it... you should take it up with them.

  6. Angel, the articles say that a BRIEF WRITING course isn't required. That's distinct from a Legal Research & Writing course not being required. You can verify that by clicking the link. The article does not say what you say it does.



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