April 3, 2012 misunderstanding law schools
I saw Justice Scalia speak today. As always, he was smart and charming, and mostly said things I expected him to say (except perhaps for bemoaning the 17th Amendment, which redistributed the power to elect Senators from state legislatures to the populace at large).
But there was one thing he said that I thought was highly wrongheaded. He trotted out the old chestnuts that law faculties don’t like to hire people who have practiced law for any significant amount of time, and that law reviews are useless becuase they are “at the highest possible level of abstraction.”
Both of these claims have some validity when it comes to Harvard and Yale. But for the rest of the nation, not so much. For example, Florida Coastal sometimes refused to hire otherwise strong candidates because of the absence of practice experience, and their law review tends to deal with fairly concrete legal topics. (Similarly, here is a recent issue of Touro’s law review focusing entirely on recent New York case law).
I am actually working on an article on faculty hiring. Even at the top 20 law schools, about half of last year’s hires have some practice experience. At fourth-tier schools, about 85 percent have practice experience.