In a special Law Schools Report, The National Law Journal has released its annual rankings of the top 50 “go-to” law schools—those schools that sent the highest number of graduates to NLJ 250 firms. In the wake of a devastating year for the legal job market, the numbers present “a pretty sorry picture,” according to NLJ editor Leigh Jones, with Northwestern, the top-ranked school on the list, only sending 56 percent of its 2009 grads to the nation’s largest law firms (compared to 2008, when more than 70 percent of graduates at Columbia, then the No. 1 school, went to NLJ 250 firms). Other rankings include the schools most favored by individual law firms, as well as those that generated the most new partners in 2009.
While the hiring numbers may be rather depressing, there is other, potentially good news on the law school front. Also featured in the NLJ report are discussions of the shift from the traditional law school model of “classroom instruction focusing on doctrine and analysis” to more “experientially based programs,” including clinics and externships, as well as reactions to a recent ABA proposal to add "student learning outcomes" to its accreditation standards—i.e., a way to promote and measure the development of practical lawyering skills, rather than relying on the such content-oriented statistics as bar passage rates. Although there is some danger that the new standards “could be turned into a bean-counting nightmare,” as Georgia State Professor Andrea Curcio acknowledges, they also offer an opportunity for much-needed “meaningful educational changes.” While law school may teach you to think like a lawyer, it doesn’t necessarily prepare you to practice like one. Re-evaluating the traditional law school curriculum to address that simple fact should benefit students, their prospective employers and future clients alike.
- posted by vera
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