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Address by HARRISON SHEPPARD, Attorney at Law
Delivered to the San Francisco, Yale Club, San Francisco, California, March 3, 1998
It is a special pleasure to have been invited to speak to the Yale Club. I never attended Yale, but it has important associations for me directly related to what I am going to talk about. I went to Law School here in San Francisco, at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. The only law professor with whom I established any real rapport as a student was a Yale graduate and former member of the Yale Law School faculty: Professor Roscoe T. Steffen, for whom I worked as a legal research assistant. Prof. Steffen was born in Montana in 1890. When he was a Yale Law School student, he attended Constitutional Law classes given by William Howard Taft, between the time Taft was President and the time he was appointed Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. It was as a result of a recommendation by Prof. Steffen to the Attorney General of the United States that I began my own legal career as an attorney in 1967 with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, where Prof. Steffen had also served.
The second association with Yale that has personal significance is even more directly related to the subject of my remarks. The present Dean of Yale Law School, Anthony T. Kronman, has written what I believe to be the best of many books that have been published during the past decade about the decline in standards of legal practice in America: The Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals of the Legal Profession (Harvard University Press, 1993). In my talks around the country to State Bar associations (and at Annual Meetings of the American Bar Association) to discuss the critical need for change in American legal education and practice, I regularly cite Dean Kronman's commentary on the progressive loss of what he calls the "lawyer statesman ideal" as the model of legal practice.
It is therefore my impression, for these and other reasons, that the dominant Yale ethos - perhaps it is not even going too far to say its spiritual outlook - is much closer than that of other law schools - for example, Harvard's - to what is needed to reinspirit the American legal profession in needed directions. What I mean by that I hope will become clear by the conclusion of this talk.
Prevalent Lawyer Practices
The assigned topic is "The Need for Change in American Law School Education." In addressing this topic, I do not wish merely to inform this audience. I want, in addition, to alarm you. For it is my opinion, after having studied the issue intensively for some years now, that the present typical behavior of lawyers, if continued unchecked and untransformed, seriously jeopardizes the future health and security of our most important civic institutions, and imperils the ultimate object of our form of government which, as stated in the Preamble to our Constitution, is "to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
In order to describe the specific needs for change in legal education, I will begin with some observations about the state of legal practice.
Lloyd's of London has estimated that …