There is beginning to happen in our law schools what has been happening for some time now even in the better graduate schools in this country. Scholars who earn advanced degrees–such as J.D.s and Ph.D.s-can find themselves unable to do professionally with their degrees what had once been routinely done with such credentials.
This is true, for example, for newly-minted Ph.D.s in, say, Physics or English literature. Thus, Physics doctorates may have to use their computer skills in brokerage firms. Thus, also, English doctorates may have to use their language skills in advertising agencies. It remains to be seen, of course, what newly-minted lawyers can do if traditional employment opportunities in the law continue to fade away.
The professors who train youngsters for dwindling professional careers should, in such circumstances, be determined to provide an education that fits one for life as well as for a conventional career. After all, a “successful” career at the bar is not likely to occupy more than one-third of one’s waking hours, even when one is fortunate enough to be “fully engaged” as a lawyer. Then, it can be hoped, there will also be decades spent thereafter in retirement.
It is essential, therefore, that the human being be ministered to at the highest level in law school, not “just” the would-be practitioner. This recognition can elevate the teacher at least as much as it does the student, with everyone thus involved encouraged to develop a deepened awareness of justice and the good. And it should encourage the student to be useful thereafter in like manner with anyone that he or she may be privileged to influence.
It is essential, that is, that graduates–be prepared to be much more than practitioners in the profession for which. they have been trained. Guidance is needed, even as practitioners, in how one should conduct oneself, but even more important one needs all the help one can get in order to live as a human being should. Useful guidance here (drawing on the best thought available across millennia) may be ultimately more important than even the skills honed for, say, the practice of law.
Thus, law students should be helped to become thoughtful human beings. As such, they should even be more reliable and effective as lawyers. but, far more Important, of course, is whatever promotes their general understanding as well as their moral character. And, in the process, their teachers themselves can have a much richer life than if they should have to limit themselves to training youngsters in one ever-changing legal specialty after another. The suggestions made here may be particularly important for minority students in this country since they are much more apt to have been shortchanged in their education from the beginning.
Critical to the best legal training in the United States, therefore, is the development in our students of an awareness both of what the most important questions are for human beings and of how one might best begin to answer such questions. Similarly, the Ph.D. in physics should be encouraged not only to think about what it means to demonstrate something but also, and even more important, about what is truly most worth thinking about.
George Anastaplo (A.B., J.D., Ph.D., The University of Chicago) is Professor of Law, Loyola University of Chicago. This essay was published, as a Letter to the
Editor, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, August 14, 2013, pages 3, 24 (below).