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Law Schools Adapt to Big Shifts at 'Biglaw'

Publication Date: 
March 15, 2011
U.S. News & World Report
Ann Carrns

U.S. News & World Report mentioned Stanford Law School in its article on the recent shift in the legal profession towards a more client-oriented perspective. Dean Larry Kramer is quoted in the following story filed by Ann Carns:

Law schools have always tended to do a fine job of teaching students to think like lawyers. Now, thanks to a seismic shake-up in the legal profession, the client's perspective is getting its due, too.

Top-ranked and lesser-known law schools alike have been working for a while now on revamping their programs of study, augmenting rote study of legal concepts and cases with hands-on opportunities to counsel real and imaginary clients. But the recession—more specifically, painful downsizing at the country's largest law firms—has forced law schools to pick up the pace.


At Stanford University, a move to a quarterly calendar makes it easier for students to take classes in business, the environment, education, and computer science, for example. The first year of law school still grounds the students firmly in legal reasoning and analysis. But after that, everyone is encouraged to gain subject-matter expertise.

Even before the recession, says Stanford Law Dean Larry Kramer, clients were seeking more guidance from their lawyers than simple explanations of what the law permits. "Now the client wants to know: How can I make this work better?" he says. "You have to know something about the business." Over the past six years, notes Kramer, there's been a twentyfold increase in the number of non-law classes taken by law students and a ninefold increase in students pursuing joint degrees.