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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, October 12, 2009

If I had a big cash settlement . . .

Ave Maria School of Law project revealed a couple of things:

1) There is a market for legal training rooted in the Natural Law and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition - We were growing from strength to strength and were set to debut as a top rated law school with lots of federal clerkships and accolades for excellence.

2) The form such an institution takes and its developmental strategy is equally, if not more, important than the educational service it seeks to deliver. A chain breaks at its weakest link, Monaghan was that weakness and so too was the supine BoG and dean who permitted him to destroy AMSOL. To this was added a recruitment/growth strategy which undermined the ethos of the school and the quality of the student body.

If you look at the biographies of entrepreneurs, the common trait before becoming a great success is having failed at starting a business somewhere along the line.

Could we see the failure of AMSOL (and I think death within 7 years, perhaps 5), as an opportunity to do it again, but better?

If you had a big cash settlement, would you make a go at starting a new law school?

If so, how would you design it?

A fair criticism of AMSOL was that it tried to be a traditional style law school (albeit Catholic) when many law schools were (and are) looking to innovative changes in their programs to be more responsive to the needs of the profession and students.

Some of the problems of a traditional style legal education are:

1) The high debt to income ratios out of law school.
2) Traditional programs teach students how to read and discuss cases and do legal writing, but leave students clueless on how to practice law in a practical sense. (Illinois now requires 20 CLE's for all new lawyers on the basics of law practice)
3) Traditional programs don't focus at all on the soft human skills of lawyering: communication skills, emotional intelligence, collaborative work, networking, etc.
4) The profession is in crisis, there are more suicides and depression within the legal profession than any other.

What if a new Catholic Law School sought to be Catholic and innovative and created a model that addressed these problems in the profession? What would it look like?

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