Attorneys, how about teaching law school?


Calling all lawyers: we need you back in law school, now. We need you in classrooms and clinics, in person and on Zoom. Law schools regularly post openings for full-time and adjunct positions. They also need volunteers to serve as role models and mentors, to help inspire students so they excel in doctrinal and experiential courses and pass the bar exam.
On that last point, we all know the bar exam isn’t easy. But did you know that on the last one, more than a dozen jurisdictions’ pass rates were under 50 percent? So if you’re seeking meaningful opportunities to influence our world, nothing could be more important. Law schools help shape society’s future counselors, advocates and legislators — we are responsible for the professional formation of tomorrow’s leaders. What we do, and what our graduates do, matters. The rule of law matters.
Work as a legal educator is particularly appealing (pun intended) because our students take their skills and knowledge to do well and do good. Our graduates work in private, public interest and government, handling a wide range of civil and criminal matters. They work on bankruptcies and evictions, consumer protection and civil rights litigation. Their efforts may allow families to stay in their homes, or prevent children from losing visitation with parents or grandparents. They help entrepreneurs acquire patents for new inventions. They help businesses resolve disputes that prevent them from thriving. They represent clients ranging from the most sophisticated elite to ordinary people who simply don’t have the savvy necessary to navigate our increasingly complex world.
Why teach now? Legal education, a world that hadn’t varied much for over a century, is undergoing radical change. Law schools today are bustling with new ideas, awareness, philosophies, and ways of teaching. Licensing and law practice are evolving, driving the academy to rethink what students need to become “practice ready.” The American Bar Association just instituted new requirements for law schools to include professional identity formation and cultural competency training.
Creative law professors are developing new “ed tech” to assist in and out of the classroom. Most value inclusivity, collaborative skills and problem solving more than intimidation. (No more looking to terrorizing scenes from “Legally Blonde” or “The Paper Chase” as “inspiration.”)

Things have also changed on the student side. More students — though still too few — from historically underrepresented populations are enrolling. And many law students are pursuing second and third careers, bringing wide and varied work and life experience to classroom discussion. So, readers who always dreamed of becoming lawyers, now is your time, too.
Even the bar exam is changing. We expect to have a new “NextGen” exam in at least two-thirds of states that will have much more of a practice-oriented focus, with negotiating, interviewing, counseling and other practical skills along with torts, contracts, criminal law and other traditional subjects. Fewer subjects will be tested overall. And that rite of passage (or, as some might say, hazing ritual), the multistate bar exam, a six-hour, 200-question, multiple-choice marathon that allows test takers only 1.8 minutes to analyze each complex scenario, will finally be history.
The pandemic taught us all a great deal. For many, seeking meaning in our day-to-day life has become paramount. In a recent conference panel entitled, “The New Pedagogy: What We Should Study About Legal Education Now,” at the Online & Hybrid Learning Conference, one scholar noted that a key difference among today’s law students from those in previous generations is that now they enter law school believing their professors care about them. It’s true. We really do.
So, lawyers out there, if you love what you’re doing, keep at it, and thank you. Your work is critically important. And if you’re thinking about a new challenge, consider coming back to the future of law school. We need the best and brightest. And future law students, now is your time.

Sara J. Berman is a professor of law and the assistant dean of academic excellence and bar success at Touro University’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip.