First, of a recent crop of 486 law prof hires, nearly forty percent graduated from only two law schools; nearly ninety percent graduated from only twelve law schools. In other words: law profs are an incestuous group of individuals that think, act, and teach (or don’t teach) the same.
Second, many new law prof hires have never practiced law. And of those who have practiced law, their average experience is only 1.4 years. (The average for all law school profs, of course, would be lower yet.) On top of that, the government and big law firm employers that account for nearly all of these 1.4 years per person typically shield their low-level employees from all forms of client contact and from any meaningful legal work.
Third, lack of legal experience isn’t even the most serious problem. “The top twenty-six law school faculties” employ, as law professors, a total of sixty-six individuals who don’t even have a law degree.
Kudos to the student editors at the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy who decided to publish this article. After all,
Campos specifically put
Harvard squarely in his crosshairs, yet the students published his work
anyway. As a sidebar, this is a great
example why law schools shouldn’t turn law review article selection, editing,
or any part of the publishing process over to law professors. Some have advocated for just such a change;
others have argued against it. But based
on statistic number two, above, law profs aren’t much more than law students
anyway, so what would be the upside? The
downside, of course, is that if law profs ran the law reviews (or even if they just
took over article selection), Campos’s
article and others like it would never see print.
In any case, rambling full-circle back to the original problem of the judiciary’s curious indifference to the rule of law, the problem likely won’t correct anytime soon. Today’s legal education reform movements are typically centered on the cost of law school — a separate problem that is arguably even more pressing. Additionally, even reform movements that are substantive in nature are necessarily limited: when profs have worked, on average, only 1.4 years, there is only so much they will be able to teach.
Campos does offer a simple proposal for reform: “a significant portion of a law school’s faculty should have had some sort of real experience with those sectors of the legal profession that the school’s graduates are most likely to enter[.]” However, this proposal is simply too radical. Law school hiring committees are comprised of law profs, and those law profs are, typically, elite law school grads with 1.4 years of experience. (See above.) It’s just not likely that they’ll turn their backs on their own and start hiring legal practitioners instead.
So, at least for now and the foreseeable future, law school students and grads will have to continue to look elsewhere (e.g., supervising lawyers, voluntary mentors, voluntary and specialized bar associations, or even self-study initiatives) for their legal training.