The Carnegie Foundation issued its book-length report, Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (Carnegie Report) in 2007. Although there have been numerous responses to it, relatively few have engaged it with any degree of critical analysis. Law schools across the country have enthusiastically mentioned the Carnegie Report in connection with curricular changes intended to “prepare” students, in the words of the Report, for the practice of law. Mostly these changes amount to adding clinical options or even clinical requirements, adding units to legal writing programs, and updating professional responsibility courses. Very few, if any law schools, however, have publicly considered the full implications of what it means to be “prepared” for the practice of law, or what the Report meant by that term. For the most part, the legal education community has assumed this simply means more training in practical skills. For the Report, however, being prepared for the practice of law means much more. As I will discuss in this Article, the Report’s primary argument is that traditional legal pedagogy has overemphasized legal theory and underemphasized practical skills and development. By focusing on theory in the abstract setting of the classroom, the Report argues, traditional legal education undermines the ethical foundations of law students and thus fails to prepare them for the practice of law in not only the practical sense but also in the ethical sense. The Report, therefore, calls for law schools not simply to produce better-skilled practitioners, but rather to infuse lawyers with a highly developed sense of moral and ethical identity, which will then lead to a reform of the profession itself.
As I will discuss, however, even if one accepts the Carnegie Report’s vision of professional identity, it is not at all clear that reforming legal education, by itself, will have a significant impact on the profession as a whole. In this Article I will argue that, even if legal educators wish to embrace a more progressive vision of the profession, and even if we agree that legal education should take the lead in bringing it about, the Carnegie Report’s perspective is far too narrow. Specifically, the Report failed to consider whether the erosion of professional ethics is symptomatic both of a much broader trend in higher education as a whole and of significant changes in the profession itself.
17 J. of the Legal Writing Institute 233 (2011).