Were I asked to design a law school curriculum, I would begin to think about a curriculum with these thoughts in mind:
1. It is entirely possible to comply with or avoid the application of law and do unimaginable harm. Lawyers who guide clients through and around law ought to remember that reality.
2. Facts are more important than law. Knowing the law without knowing the relevant facts is of little use and can lead to a false sense of confidence and usefulness.
3. Two disciplines are part and parcel of every type of law and of every lawyer’s professional life and therefore ought to be emphasized above all others:
a. Writing clearly, succinctly and accurately so as to earn the reader’s interest and respect; and
b. Understanding, respecting and applying The Rules of Professional Conduct. The Rules are not a separate subject. They are part and parcel of every type of law and of every aspect of a lawyer’s professional (and sometimes, private) life. Note too that the Rules are not the only source of law governing lawyer conduct. The law of lawyering is a large subject that includes but is not limited to contract law, tort law, the law of agency, and the law of conspiracy, aiding and abetting and wire fraud.
4. It is impossible to responsibly advise clients without some sense of the nature and value of the client’s problem, the client’s ability to pay and the relative cost, time and risk associated with alternative approaches to helping the client understand and deal effectively with the problem. Sometimes focusing narrowly on a client’s perceived legal problem misses the boat. Legal problems always take place in a larger context, which one should always take into account.
5. A lawyer’s fundamental but by no means sole responsibility is to use her integrity, honesty and professional judgment in service to her clients.