Book by William M. Sullivan, Anne Colby, Judith Welch Wegner, Lloyd Bond & Less S. Shulman
Review by John R. Nilsson
Preprofessional Advising Coordinator, University College
University of Utah

Educating Lawyers is the Carnegie Foundation’s penetrating look at the state of legal education in the United States and Canada.  The result of an intensive comparative study of sixteen law schools across the continent, this work is of interest to all those who will be advising future lawyers and to those following the interplay between higher education and the professions. That being said, the work will be most deeply appreciated by those who have spent some time learning educational theory and those whose advising caseloads include a substantial number of law school-bound students.

The book that emerged as the result of this study concludes that while problems exist in legal education, there are viable models out there worthy of emulation.  Two such models are mentioned by name: CUNY and NYU.  (Readers familiar with law schools will wish more than these two were mentioned; the sixteen law schools are never revealed.)  CUNY and NYU, while differing in many institutional regards, are both seen by the authors as successfully integrating the “cognitive, practical, and formative apprenticeships in legal education”(p. 58), mainly by requiring some early clinical coursework where students are able to learn by working with clients and attorneys in a “real world” setting.

The authors do a good job in describing the dialogues which take place between instructors and students in the sixteen selected law schools, pointing out the pedagogical strengths and weaknesses inherent in the famous Socratic case-study method. These dialogues are the best feature of the book and allow the reader to draw independent conclusions about the educational impact of the law school on students’ view of the profession of law, which tends to be case-centered rather than client-centered and to take a detached view of ethics. Very clearly, “thinking like a lawyer”(p. 87) emerges from this educational process, but what does this mean for the legal profession, which is itself a result of the cumulative student output of these law schools?

Advisors who work with students contemplating law school would be well-served by having a copy of this book on their shelf, and reading through one or more of the case-study dialogues with their student as a means of gauging their student’s interest in the study of law. This exercise can prove highly engaging for the student who will enjoy the whirl of this particular brand of intellectual acrobatics, and illuminating for the student who will be prompted to reconsider their career choice as a result.

Advisors would also do well to point out to students that law school may not necessarily teach them everything they ought to know about being a lawyer.  That will hopefully come as they are mentored by a senior staff member at their first firm.  These insights and others are vital if we are to do our part in preparing students for a legal education which will enable them to “uphold the vital values of freedom with equity and extend these values into situations as yet unknown but continuous with the best aspirations of our past”(p. 202).

Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law. (2007). Book by William M. Sullivan, Anne Colby, Judith Welch Wegner, Lloyd Bond & Less S. Shulman. Review by John R. Nilsson. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 240 pp., $40.00, (hardback). ISBN # 978-0-7879-8261-4
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