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Why Law Schools Need to Change

One hundred years ago in America, only about 15 percent of all houses had a bathtub; eight out of every 100 homes had a telephone; and the Socratic method of teaching was developed at Harvard Law School.

Thankfully, society has made some advances over the course of the last century. Law schools, however, haven’t changed all that much.

Most law schools still rely on the Socratic method of teaching. Professors randomly call on students to summarize cases, then spend the next 15 minutes to a half hour interrogating the students, trying to “encourage” the students to discover new insights into the case. Or, worse, trying to rip the students’ understanding of the case to shreds.

This method of teaching might make sense for few students who actually end up working as litigators, but for everyone else, the entire experience is often nothing more than an exercise in the memorization and regurgitation of facts from a casebook.

Law schools need to change.

Law school students don’t learn the same way they did 50, 25 or even 10 years ago. Today’s students–especially the younger ones–are used to learning-by-doing, not by interrogation. They want to build tangible skills that will allow them to hit the ground running once they graduate, not learn how to memorize facts that may or may not apply to the area of law they end up practicing. And they want their information presented in easy-to-understand terms, with dynamic graphics and even multimedia presentations, not page after page of black and white text.

Law schools need to do more of some of the things they’re currently doing that work–offering externships and clinics–and less of the things they’re currently doing that don’t work–locking students in classrooms day after day to listen to professors who interrogate and pontificate. Law schools also need to do some things they’ve never done before.

Most of today’s students grew up getting their information on the Internet. It’s where they turn for ideas, information and, yes, even facts. But today, few of the country’s 200 law schools incorporate the Internet into their courses. The few that do are often looked down on by the legal industry, even though using the Internet as a teaching tool works, it’s what students want and it is likely the future of legal education.

But the lack of creativity isn’t all law schools’ fault. The American Bar Association has strict rules about the use of the Internet.

But still, it’s surprising that most schools don’t use it at all.

Yes, a lot has changed in our country over the past 100 years. Now it’s time for law schools to make the switch from being like rotary phones to being more like smartphones.

 

About the Author
Sumita Dalal is the Founder and CEO of FindMyLawTutor, the largest and most trusted website and online portal that connects law students with law tutors for success in law school. Whether preparing for the LSAT, are currently a law student or are studying for the bar exam, FindMyLawTutor makes finding a law tutor fast and easy.

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