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Ian Weinstein
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I guess blogging is supposed to be provocative and I compliment Jason Mazzone for provoking me. I am flummoxed by his distressingly fact free assertions that law practice is not hard and practical experience has quickly diminishing returns. I suggest two areas of evidence one might consider in evaluating these broad claims. First, the marketplace certainly values experienced lawyers and pays a very high premium for them. Perhaps the marketplace is wrong - wooly headed fools like me search for such examples - but sophisticated players, from in house counsel involved in bet the company litigation to Dominique Strauss Kahn, pay a hefty premium for very smart lawyers with a lot of experience. Heaven forefend anyone you care about should need a lawyer like Ben Brafman but even he, smart and talented as he is, was not always the lawyer he has become. Second, there is a significant literature on expertise, from the wonderful insights of Donald Schon to the more data driven work of people like Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness. Most in that field believe it takes ten years to develop mature professional judgment and that expertise continues to develop for at least another seven years and often continues to build well into long professional careers. I offer one last bit that might help explain the common claim from practice that teaching law is not hard, which is so often met with the claim from the academy that practice is not hard. We often underestimate the difficulty of things we don't know that much about. Unable to make an informed judgment about quality, we assume a child could duplicate a Pollock drip painting or that anyone with small motor coordination could perform brain surgery if they had a manual. If someone I care about needs a lawyer, I refer them to folks with deep knowledge leavened by experience. Maybe a will drafted by a newbie will work out fine - most legal documents are never tested because no one disputes them. But that does not mean drafting is simple. And if someone I care about wants a legal education, I urge them to seek it from people who know what they know deeply and also have some feel for what they don't know and others do know. Of course Dan poses other, interesting questions about the role of experience in teaching. It may well be that experience in practice is useful and experience teaching from practice is also useful. If you need a lawyer, find one with experience. If you need a teacher, you might also look for experience in that profession. Judgment, rapid recall, deep structured knowledge and skills honed to near automatcity are the stuff of expertise across domains. Identifying the appropriate domain in which to seek expertise is yet another part of the puzzle.
Yea Minna. Our endless capacity to deny the most basic social facts still amazes and moves me, though I might have thought I would just come to accept it by now. Sexism in the academy is right up there with gambling at Rick's - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/quotes . I am deeply shocked and certain there must be some other explanation. Let me spend a bit of time in narcissistic contemplation of the purity of my motives and I will get back to you.
This is a good question in the sense that it really got me going. I have used my guest blogger status to post my reply on the blog front page, dated July 24.