The “Think Like A Lawyer” Approach to Law School is Outdated

Mary E. Jutten wrote a piece in the ABA Journal titled The “Think Like a Lawyer” Approach to Law School is Outdated, which makes some interesting points that will be familiar to readers of this blog.  Her most interesting point being that law schools need to teach students to think like professional service providers rather than gladiators preparing for combat.

But what ups the ante for this article is the following passage

I just started taking a Masters-level negotiation class and two readings struck me as relevant to the needed change in law school curriculum.

Andrea Kupfer Schneider’s 2002 article, Shattering Negotiation Myths: Empirical Evidence on the Effectiveness of Negotiations Style, discusses this notion that we are training law students to wield power instead of knowledge. The idea is that lawyers view bargaining or adversarial negotiating as a risk-averse alternative to problem solving. Kupfer outlined that law students are taught to fight from their first year in law school. Additionally, students review cases and disputes at the highest courts using, of course, the Socratic method, which can led to more aggressive exchange than class debate. The notion that our professional rules ethically permit puffery and exaggeration means we are training new lawyers to represent clients and negotiate very close to the ethical line. Instead of conditioning lawyers to be adversarial from the beginning, we should mandate classes in alternative dispute resolution.

The article in full can be read here.

Glad to see others noting how prescient Andrea’s words from more than 15 years ago were.

Hat Tip – Jean Sternlight

One thought on “The “Think Like A Lawyer” Approach to Law School is Outdated”

  1. Love this! I have often apologized and admonished my law students that I am about to undo their training and ask them to think like a mediator. Also, why do most states require continuing ed in ethics and substance abuse but not negotiation? Don’t most lawyers spend more time in negotiation than in “the other bar”?

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