Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I fear for the next generation of lawyers.

Not only are they moving into a world that's increasingly precarious (generally) and into a legal world in which the rules of survival are getting more brutal, but they're doing so after coming into law school significantly less prepared. They don't have the liberal arts (or science) background that so many of us did (which enabled us to relate what we were learning in law school to other ways of thinking and analyzing), but they're simply not prepared to communicate well. Are they not getting solid training in basic writing (and I'm talking about spelling and punctuation problems) skills? We have very, very smart students. But too many of them aren't prepared for a complicated world. And it's not just students at Boyd. I've seen these problems at every school at which I've taught.

In a world that's going to be far more competitive, we need to help our students catch up to the skill level of students from other countries. But HOW?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I take it our exams were THAT bad? :o)

Anonymous said...

"They don't have the liberal arts (or science) background that so many of us did, but they're simply not prepared to communicate well." I don't like to knit pick, but it is irksome when people go out of their way to bemoan the death of good communications skills and in the process fail to clearly communicate themselves. The lesson to be learned, I think, is that the rules of grammar can be esoteric, unduly complicated, and often counter intuitive, so it should be no surprise that students, in their rush to complete a timed in class exam, make numerous, even obvious, grammatical mistakes. After all, you made one posting a blog at your own leisure.

caro said...

in most of the lenguajes the spelling rules are getting lost, I think we need to start to pay more attention to that skill or way or art
http://www.z-trend.com/

Richard Peck said...

Anonymous #1--

I don't like to "knit pick," but the term is "nitpick." I, on the other hand, live in a glass house - - :-)

Legally UnBound said...

I love it when a Blog sparks a FIRE. Ms. Rapoport, you may be right, but you are wrong. This has always been an issue, from generation to generation. Yes, you are showing your, er, uh, "experience". What you are encountering is linguistical evolution in the American lexicon/grammar, not just "those lazy kids." It's just how it is. I don't like it, but it is. The up and coming generation has to deal with the changes that technology creates in language, the increased acceptance of other cultures and languages in society, the increased internationalization of our language,...not that it wasn't already. Don't worry, the foreign speakers will catch up to our "lazy" evolving ways, too. They always have.

Even the word "ask" has arguably had the variant "ax" used for centuries, a source considered to be from foreign influence, not poor studies. Some say there even became an accepted form of the word (OE āxian).

So the question is are we devolving or evolving?

The most relevant comment is that "grammar can be esoteric". Great, someone said it!! Even though that comment is like "nails on a chalkboard" to many, it is true. In the end, it really should be more about "what" we are saying, instead of digressing to "how" it is being said. Much ado about nothing.

Anonymous said...

I see a difference in the ability to communicate between those students who have "real world" experience and those students just out of undergrad. The students who have been outside of academia are generally more well-spoken and confident when they speak. Maybe a requirement that prospective law students have work experience before coming to law school would improve one's ability to communicate in both speaking and writing.

Legally UnBound said...

Nothing prepares a person for the real world like the real world.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2: In Prof Rapoport's defense, she did give us 3 whole days to do her exam and explicitly limited us to 8 pages. So, we can't really use the traditional "tell me to write a legal version of War & Peace in 3-hours and you are going to get typos galore" excuse. :o)

Nancy Rapoport said...

The exams weren't bad at all, but I worry about how clients (and senior lawyers) will view graduates who aren't as good as they could be at grammar and spelling. It's a cutthroat world out there, and even the smartest people look less smart when they make communication mistakes (including me!).

Anonymous said...

"In the end, it really should be more about "what" we are saying, instead of digressing to "how" it is being said."

Perhaps you are right. On the other hand, how you say something directly affects whether or not what you are saying is received and perceived. Lawyers are in the business of using language to be persuasive, and there is no excuse for turning out products that you have not proofread and edited. Typographical errors, grammatical errors, syntax, etc -- when these errors abound in your written work, they cheapen its value and either your supervising attorneys or your clients may wonder if you are worth what they are paying you.

Legally UnBound said...

RE Anonymouns 11:05am

"when these errors abound in your written work, they cheapen its value and either your supervising attorneys or your clients may wonder if you are worth what they are paying you."

I agree with what you've said. Especially the quoted portion above. In the end, for better or for worse, it does "cheapen" our value. My main point was that often times focus "inside our profession" leans to grammar and spelling, when we should focus more on the argument.

I have had several Boyd Grads work for me since the school started, and some still do. I don't see any real recurring theme on spelling and grammar. However, I do see a recurring theme in the inability to make a solid argument, and an even bigger stuggle for creative arguments. This is not a knock on Boyd, they are turning our great students. The most impressive consistency seems to be that they turn out "real live" lawyers that don't fear working, not theory-thinkers. We need more of the former and not the latter.

Nancy Rapoport said...

Yes, I'd love to figure out a way to help novice lawyers transition from "here is what the caselaw says" to a real analysis of what that means for the client--which is the single most difficult part of transitioning to being a lawyer.