With this post I venture onto dangerous ground, but what the hell.
Some years ago I came across a Canadian law school which was offering a course on “A Feminist Perspective on Corporate Tax.” More recently, I came across a law school course on “A Feminist Perspective on Carbon Taxes.” It all struck me as kind of stupid.
To be clear, I did not think that the idea that the tax system discriminates against women is dumb. That is not hard to believe. Nor did I think that the issue should not be studied, written about, and taught at a sophisticated level to highlight the need for change.
What I thought was ridiculous was that students were graduating law school taking Corporate Tax From A Feminist Perspective or Intellectual Property Law in Romania between 1912 and 1917 (Okay, I made that one up), but not taking Corporate Law, Tax Law, and so many other “basic” courses. Nobody was telling them that they were going to be woefully unprepared to practice law when they graduated.
Now, I can already see the rolling eyeballs of the Academics and hear them chanting in unison that it is not the job of law schools to train lawyers to practice law, and that you can do many things with a law degree other than practicing law, yada, yada. And I would have no problem with that if the law students were not showing up absolutely clueless in droves at the doors of law firms looking for articling jobs or positions as first year associates.
Young lawyers have told me that that nobody at law school ever explained to them that you have to know some tax in order to practice family law or employment law, and that a rudimentary knowledge of corporate law would also be helpful. I have had others explain that they want to practice business law, but it was never mentioned that Accounting 101 might be a good idea.
A quick Google search on the curriculum at Osgoode Hall Law School reveals courses on Animals and the Law, Chinese Law, Entertainment & Sports Law, International Dispute Resolution: Sports Disputes & Arbitration, and U.S. Securities Regulation in Comparative Perspective. All good courses once you have learned the basics.
What do you not need to study at Osgoode if you don’t want to? Legal Drafting. Family Law. Business Law. Tax Law. Banking and Insolvency. Administrative Law. Lending. Employment. Trust Law.
What can you study instead? Law of War, Class Actions, Governance of the International Financial System, Constitutional Litigation, International Trade Regulation, and many, many, others.
You can hardly blame law students for not knowing that they have to learn the basics before getting to the specialties. But surely the brain trust behind the law schools should be able to figure that out.
Until they do, law firms will have to continue to cope with law students who may be fun at cocktail parties waxing eloquently on the Geneva Convention on Whatever, but who are clueless about what they need to know to practice law.