Although the field of privacy law grown dramatically in past two decades, education in law schools about privacy law has significantly lagged behind. Most U.S. law schools lack a course on privacy law. Of those that have courses, many are small seminars, often taught by adjuncts. Of the law schools that do have a privacy course, most often just have one course. Most schools lack a full-time faculty member who focuses substantially on privacy law.
This state of affairs is a great detriment to students. I am constantly approached by students and graduates from law schools across the country who are wondering how they can learn about privacy law and enter the field. Many express great disappointment at the lack of any courses, faculty, or activities at their schools.
Recently, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) released a ranking of law schools based on their educational programs in privacy law. Although I applaud the effort to focus more attention on the issue of teaching privacy law in law schools, there are many aspects of the project that I would do differently. In this post, I will discuss the elements of what I believe would constitute a robust privacy law educational program at law schools.
First, a bit of background about IAPP’s rankings. IAPP ranks schools into three tiers. Tier 1 is for schools offering a “certification or formal concentration in privacy law.” Tier 2 is for schools that “offer at least one three-credit course in privacy annually.” Tier 3 is for schools that “have a privacy offering, such as a one-credit seminar” rather than a three-credit offering or that have offered privacy courses but not on a “consistent basis.”
Unfortunately, the data that IAPP has assembled thus far is incomplete and needs quite a number of corrections. For example, many schools listed in Tier 3 have a 3-credit annual offering.
Additionally, I don’t agree with the set of criteria used to rank the schools. Having a certificate doesn’t put a school’s program in the top tier. There are many other factors to consider. Presenting the data in a rankings format is counterproductive because the data needs a lot of correcting plus the criteria are incomplete and not properly weighted. I think a more useful endeavor would be to improve the data, gather data on some other criteria, and just present the data rather than try to rank. IAPP’s project is just a starting point, and I hope that my suggestions here are constructive and will help shape the project.
The longstanding attacks on legal scholarship all seem to assume a particular relationship between theory and practice, one that I believe is flawed. Recently, I responded to one such critique. There are others, with Justice Roberts and many other judges and practitioners claiming that legal scholarship isn’t worth their attention and isn’t useful to the practice of law.
Much has already been written about David Segal’s article in the N.Y. Times, What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering. I join the strongcritiques of this piece in condemning it as a lousy piece of journalism — more of a one-sided hack job, riddled with errors. It belongs on the op-ed page of a trashy paper.