Almost a week ago, the New York Times featured an article on programs by some law schools to start “firms” to help with graduate placement . http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/education/law-schools-look-to-medical-education-model.html?pagewanted=all The NYT article triggered a chain of very thoughtful and informative e-mail comments and discussion on the clinic listserv (and I hope that some of the commentators share their thoughts again by commenting on this post below). Commentators carefully tried to untangle and analyze the hodge-podge of goals, concerns and ideas that were unfortunately conflated in the breezy article.
One of the issues which is often subsumed in the article and in the discussion of these projects is the potential to address inequity in access to justice in America. According to the World Justice Project’s most recent report, the United States continues to fare poorly in Rule of Law indicators when it comes to access to counsel and the difference in behavior between high and low income individuals:
“ <i>in the United States, among the low income litigants, 81% did not seek legal assistance because they felt that they could not afford the lawyer’s fees, compared to 48% of the high income litigants.”</i>
And as Gillian K. Hadfield observes in commenting on plummeting law school admissions , “We have a significant mismatch between demand and supply.” “http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/law-school-applications-are-collapsing-as-they-should-be/272729/
Is there promise in these “law school law firm” initiatives to address this country’s truly awful reputation on lack of access to justice? Cathryn Miller-Wilson believes there is: “Harmonizing Current Threats: Using the Outcry for Legal Education Reforms to Take Another Look at Civil Gideon and What it Means to be an American Lawyer” http://ssrn.com/author=1896974
Others are bemused that the entire conversation appears to ignore the law firms that already exist within law schools – in-house clinics. Is it a secret that law schools already have been focused on teaching through law firm practice since the early part of the last century?
Is the emphasis on clinics as teaching labs and the focus on the development of a student from neophyte to emerging lawyer an inconvenient fact?
Still others are angered that this emphasis on law schools running firms, especially when client fees are involved, unfairly competes with our struggling new graduates.
What do you think?
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