Edward Zelinksky teaches tax law at Cardozo Law School in New York City. In response to the all the issues with the current (abysmal) state of legal education — which I have detailed here, here and here — Zelinsky wants to add a mandatory fourth year to law school. And he’s actually serious about it:
First, there is today much more law to learn than there was in the past. There are today whole new fields of law which did not exist a generation ago, e.g., health care law. Moreover, within pre-existing areas of the law, the amount of law has expanded enormously over the last two decades.
This is almost too laughable to take seriously, but here goes: Zelinsky obviously has zero idea of what happens to his students when they graduate. A lawyer will generally do this:
Option 1: Criminal? –> Proscecutor? –> Criminal Defense? State court practitioner? –> Federal court practitioner? And that pretty much takes cares of any law, besides criminal, he needs to know. Most likely, he will never utilize any other field of law. But Zelinsky insists on making him study law he will never use and paying (Zelinsky’s salary) for the pleasure of doing so.
Option 2 is civil law and is not as easily mapped out, but most people, save for those solos who do “everything” (and probably nothing in particular well), finds a niche area of law and practice that: e.g., patent, soft IP, business/commercial litigation, plaintiff’s lawyer, transactional, so on and so forth. Again, there is not a whole lot of cross-pollinization. Being a jack of all trades, but a master of none is a good way to get sued for legal malpractice.
Then Zelinsky gives us this howler:
The most serious argument against a fourth year of law school is the additional cost it would entail. Legal education is already too expensive. Adding a fourth year would impart even greater urgency to task of controlling the expense of law school, just as there is currently great urgency to the task of controlling the costs of undergraduate education.
So let’s follow Zelinsky’s logic: law school is already really, really expensive. Let’s add another year to make it more expensive, and this will generate more urgency to make it less expensive. Zelinsky’s logic seems to be derived from the tax code he teaches from.
Zelinsky’s idea, and there is no way to be kind about it, is inane. Everyone who has attended law school since it became a mandatory three years knows that “3Ls” spends the third-year coasting, high school senior year style, waiting for school to be over and start their jobs (if they have one).
It is astounding that Zelinsky would even posit this idea, but the gall and lack of practical knowledge it shows shows how badly legal education must be reformed. Just don’t listen to Ed Zelinsky.