When reading Legal Skills Prof Blog‘s post on some steps we students can take to increase skills courses at our schools, one tip sounded both promising and confusing:
3. Take as many skills courses and clinics as you can. If students take more skills courses and clinics, your law school will have to hire more skills professors and offer more skills options.
This may have to do with the fact that I avoided business school and medical school because I have a certifiable phobia of numbers, but, I gotta ask: How does this work?
Say, all of us students go in for skills, clinics, and externships during our 2L and 3L years. Our demand for these courses overwhelms the supply (as it does already right now at my school) but to the point that only some are lucky enough to get into the skills courses available. If more and more of us sign up for these courses, will our law schools really be forced to hire more skills professors and offer more skills-based courses, or will more students just be lotteried out and put onto wait lists? How does this whole thing work behind the scenes? I ask, because I really don’t know.
If the big lecture courses (90+ students to 1 teacher) are the most cost-effective courses for law schools (more bang for buck there), even if we keep applying to the smaller clinics, do law schools have other factors inhibiting the ability to give us more clinics and skills courses? How can law schools afford to offer more of the clinics (usually 10-30 students per 1 teacher) and skills courses (also often 10-30 students per 1 teacher), without cutting into other resources? To give us more clinic courses, will salaries need to be cut, or will new state of the art buildings or tech developments have to lose some of their funding?
I’m no economist, and I’m pretty sure I’m not a rational human decision maker or actor, likely the very opposite, completely and irrefutably irrational most days, so in this post, I’d like to put a question out there to economists, professors, administrators, rational actors, smarter people than me, and anyone else who wants a little clarity on this whole supply demand thing.
I get this feeling that students already have been exhibiting more demand for skills, externships, and clinics considering that a large number of students are lotteried out from these courses and wait listed. If that’s the case, will it make a difference if more of us sign up for the classes? Is there a magic number that will signify that enough of us wants these courses to push law schools to change the supply of skills courses to meet our demands?
“Oh yes, students, we must and can afford to fill most of 2L and 3L year with skills and clinics!”
If this isn’t the case, and there are other factors slowing the process of shifting law schools towards offering more courses that train actual skills, what else needs to be done and what can students do to help make this happen?