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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Are Law Students Getting What We Want or What We Need?

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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MoneyLaw’s Jeff Harrison, a law professor at the University of Florida who incidentally once taught at the University of Houston, caught my eye with a piece on Best Practices for Law Schools. Drawing on the relatively recent report Best Practices for Legal Education, Harrison made an interesting observation –

I could be wrong but I think there is some tension between what graduates say is most important and what current students think they want. What students think they need are clearly stated rules, an absence of ambiguity, nice power-point presentations, and lectures that lend themselves to well-organized notes.

I think of Law school as a little like boot camp – it has less to do with how much I’m enjoying the experience than how well it prepares me for what comes after. Like most law students I have no real way of knowing how pertinent my present law school experience will be to my eventual practice, but I’ve come to appreciate the professors that demand the most from their students and refuse to expect anything less than excellence.

So what is it we need?

What caught the eye of a colleague who then pointed it out to me is the report of a 2005 study of the Arizona Bar conducted by Gerry Hess and Stephen Gerst. One question for judges and attorneys was to rate the important of areas of legal knowledge. Four courses came in well ahead of the rest — Civil Procedure, Professional Responsibility, Contracts, and Evidence. Those three, along with Remedies, Torts, and Property were the only ones ranked as essential or very important by at least 50% of the respondents. Related to this is the response to a question about the most important professional skills for a new attorney. Here several skill ranked quite high. The leaders were “legal reasoning and analysis” and “written communication” with 96% of the respondents listing them as essential or very important.

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Category: advice to law students, law school

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