The Law School might well refuse admission to future applicants with specialized educational backgrounds no matter how well they have done scholastically, Dean Erwin N. Griswold has warned in his annual report for 1954-55.
Although the School has long operated on the theory that what an applicant takes in college is less important than how well he does it, Griswold claimed that many students are not getting the training they need to become "not merely lawyers, but cultured lawyers with a broad background."
Attacking such specialized college programs as commerce, speech, public relations, and journalism, Griswold maintained that the ideal lawyer should be broadly learned as well as technically trained. "Such a lawyer is cultured, wellbred, thoughtful, trained to see things in a broad light, and prepared to advise with wisdom as well as technical learning," he said.
The Law School has long regarded the college degree as "a virtually conclusive badge of culture," Grisweld noted. "Yet in recent years," he declared, "the college has occasionally been debased, at least in terms of the depth and breadth of the training which it represents."
As evidence of unnecessary specialization he cited typography, press photography, sales management, stage lighting, organization and administration of play-rounds, and methods in minor sports. These courses have been offered by recent applicants. Many records indicate that prospective students have had no work at all in literature, philosophy, foreign languages, sociology, government, natural science, or mathematics, he added.
Although a college degree has been the only formal requirement for admission to the Law School for 60 years, Grisweld said that increasing numbers of applicants might force the School to accept only the most broadly trained.
In the past, the Law School has been unwilling to prescribe any required courses or even recommend that any particular work be taken in college. "This appears to have been a sound practice," Grisweld said, "for no evidence has ever appeared that one specialty rather than another provides a better training for law study."
Wants "Informed Lawyers"
This probably remains true today, he pointed out, if the Law School is merely seeking applicants who can pass the bar examinations. "But a graduate of the School should not merely be able to pass the examinations," he said. "He should be prepared to be a wise and informed lawyer and a leader in the community."
Griswold noted that many college advisers steer prospective law students into commercial and business courses. "It might be well to make it plainer that this sort of thing is not looked on with favor as far as this School is concerned," he stated.
If the School made it plain that it would not accept applicants whose college training was over-specialized, he said, there might be some salutary reaction on the part of the colleges and undergraduates.