Law Schools

Adjunct Law Prof Hits Schools’ Preoccupation with ‘Impractical Scholarship’

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Top law schools hire professors with fewer years of real-world experience than lower-tier schools, according to an adjunct who questions schools’ “preoccupation with impractical scholarship” in a law review article.

Georgetown University adjunct law professor Brent Evan Newton told the National Law Journal that he was inspired to write his article because of his students’ fears that they won’t be able to land a job after graduation. They worried that law school had not prepared them to make a living as a practicing lawyer.

His article, slated for publication in the South Carolina Law Review, is called “Preaching What They Don’t Practice: Why Law Faculties’ Preoccupation with Impractical Scholarship and Devaluation of Practical Competencies Obstruct Reform in the Legal Academy.”

Newton contends that law schools hire professors with little practice experience and then emphasize scholarship more than teaching. These “impractical professors whose chief mission is to produce theoretical legal scholarship” feel indifferent towards—and sometimes outright disdain for—practicing lawyers and faculty members with a practical bent, he writes.

Newton suggests the problem is worse at top-tier schools. He examined entry-level tenure track hiring from 2000 to 2009 at 40 law schools. Fourth-tier schools hired faculty with an average of more than seven years of practical experience, while top-tier schools hired those with an average of less than two years’ experience.

“Especially at law schools in the upper echelons of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, the core of the faculties seem indifferent or even hostile to the concept of law school as a professional school with the primary mission of producing competent practitioners,” he writes.

He suggests law schools could emphasize practice skills by dividing faculty into two tracks, one made up of research professors who focus on theoretical scholarship, and the other, teaching professors with extensive practice experience.

Additional coverage:

Legal Blog Watch: “Two-Track Legal Education Coming to a Law School Near You?”

Wall Street Journal Law Blog: “Are Law School Faculties Part of the Problem with Legal Education?”

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