The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching summarizes its two-year study of the North American legal education system by concluding that "law school provides the beginning, not the full development, of students’ professional competence and identity. At present, what most students get as a beginning is insufficient."
The report recommends "a dynamic curriculum that moves [students] back and forth between understanding and enactment, experience and analysis," integrating traditional classes with clinical approaches to legal education. Yale Law School, City University of New York School of Law and NYU were recognized for having balanced curricula.
Given the recent changes in a number of law schools’ curricula, one commentator asked whether this "problem" wasn’t already on its way to being solved. Others asked why the Foundation had not addressed the perennial questions of improved ethics and relationship training and whether law school could be shortened to two years.
In an essay in the January 8, 2007 edition of the National Law Journal, Stephen J. Friedman, dean of Pace University School of Law, and formerly commissioner of the SEC, general counsel of The Equitable and E.F. Hutton, and co-chairman of the corporate department at Debevoise & Plimpton, finds law graduates to be "ill-equipped to be effective beginning lawyers" and wants curriculum at law schools to be "more purposeful, more focused and more integrated." He notes that rising legal fees discourage over-the-shoulder training and rising salaries push young lawyers towards early specialization in order to be more productive. He advocates a third year of broad and interrelated training that heps students learn how to function, as well as think, like lawyers.
Shortening law school to two years would produce a larger number of graduates to feed the maws of Wall Street and perhaps reduce tensions in the retention wars. But more "personal relations" and "client management" types of course targeted to raising the emotional intelligence and relationship skills of law graduates would be the most direct and dramatic route to both increased attorney productivity and increased attorney and client satisfaction.