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Law schools are in trouble with their students. They are not able to interest, inspire, or even hold on to many of their best college graduates. It is true that for most students the first year is exciting. The fresh incisiveness of approach, the active classroom, the impatience with fuzzy college ways are a great experience. But after the first year the excitement fades. Students cannot find courses they want to take. Having caught on to the classroom method, they drowse through increasingly obvious repetitions. They try to find new interest outside the classroom in legal aid, practice trials or law journal work. All too often law school ends with students merely marking time.
Law schools are also no longer attracting as many of the best and most imaginative college graduates. College students today value- the intellectual life more than their predecessors. They like courses which are searching and speculative; law seems to them to require a narrow confinement of the intellect. College graduates are increasingly idealistic, and increasingly skeptical about the commercial society in which they have grown up. They regard the legal profession as an adjunct of business, and lawyers as hired special pleaders for the established values. Moreover, students reject a role as a gun for hire a secondary being. Many come to law school with no real intention of practicing law, hoping that they can find a career in public service or teaching; some of the top students will not even interview the large firms.
Doubt and self-criticism are certainly not new to the law schools. But the doubt and self-criticism have not been deep enough, and the many attempts at reform have not succeeded. Law schools must keep seeking new answers, or see their position of leadership gradually lost.
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