Lean times mean that people look for ways to save money. It also means that producers look for ways to cut costs and, accordingly, cut the quality of what they do. That is the good news. The bad news is that whether times are lean or not, a shirking faculty -- the self appointed shareholders of law schools -- promote the same quality reducing measures. Whether driven my lean times or just faculty cost cutting, its impact is to lower nutritional levels thus creating the McLawschool. Several items on the menu reflect the McCulture of today's legal education.
1. Massive reliance on adjunct professors (a good thing if you are in a city where the pool is large, not so good in a college town where the pool is small) with little or no screening. Some are good some are not but they often work for the honor of being able so say they are "professors." No one ever asks if they know what they are doing and as long as they are nice, give good notes, and seems smart the students will not tell. In fact, some students want you to super-size that.
2. Subcontracting by virtue of externships. No teacher necessary except for a weekly phone call. In some cases, the externs work for for profit making entities. Yes, the school subsidizes the private sector by giving students credit for helping generate more dough for others. No money for the students, though. If they need it, they price is the credit they would otherwise get.
3. High margin desserts. These are the extras that are good at the time but are unlikely to make you a better lawyer. Foreign programs go to the head of the class here. It's actually more like a school running a travel agency. The experience is fun, like a nice like a big piece of Goode Company pecan pie, but about 2/3 of it is only that. As one student said," Don't worry about class, it's all graded on the curve."
4. If you can combine a summer program, with a semester abroad with an externship, you can spend half of your three years in law school not in law school. In fact, for people who do this, the a law school is just a drive through window.
When students are done with the three year meal, can they write, research and think critically?Maybe, but that will be determined largely by whether they could do those things before they arrived.