I say, let's whittle down law school to one year and have one more year of practical training. Isn't that a better idea?
Mr. J.T.W. (gee, how many middle names does a person need) White, makes some good points. Only law graduates realize how ill suited they are to perform actual lawyering when they receive their beloved J.D. I don't have to tell you about the sick feeling in your stomach when your second cousin Phil asks you to prepare a will for him, or your Uncle Jethro shows you a complaint for foreclosure after your graduation dinner... and you have to say, "I have no idea how I can help you."
Mr. White writes:
...while law professors emphasized the theoretical approach to legal education and this approach thrived, the importance of practical training has received much less scrutiny and has been largely cast to the way- side. This leaves a gap between the legal education received by law students and the education students need to become competent practitioners—and this gap is widening.
Most law professors have no idea how to practice the law. Did you ever hear that saying? I forget how it goes, but something like this "Those who get "As" in law school teach, those who get "Bs" become judges and those who get "Cs" practice." Well, most professors haven't practiced or only practiced for a year before their social ineptitude became so apparent that they are forced to scurry to the nearing Law School Mill and become part of the machine. These professors are more comfortable with theory, and consequently teach theory. The origins of mens rea doesn't teach you how to negotiate a guilty plea for a criminal client. So, what about the ABA? Shouldn't they see to it that Law School Mills create Lawyers, not just thinkers?
One of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) objectives for the program of legal education is that “[a] law school shall maintain an educational program that prepares its students for admission to the bar, and effective and responsible participation in the legal profession." However, it appears the ABA standards are much more tailored to bar passage rates than actually training students to be successful members of the legal community.Once again, the ABA fails us. Bar passage means understanding theory or regurgitation of law, but not effective representation of real live clients. Law firms have and continue to complain about the lack of practical skills in the law school curriculum:
It is apparent that “the model in which senior partners line-edited their associates’ memos and the associates accompanied their partners to court for years before being given a case of their own to handle has become but a dim memory.” Schools have recognized that, especially in the increasingly competitive legal market created by the slumping economy, their graduates need to be prepared with practical skills, not just knowledge of legal theory. This is because legal employers are not willing to pay large salaries to individuals who lack practical training. The recent economic crisis has caused law schools to take notice of the gap in legal education and preparation for the legal profession, resulting in schools “revamp[ing] their curricula to prepare students for the realities of the legal profession.One pathetic attempt at "revamping" is offered by University of California at Los Angeles, that recently started an LLM program that gives graduates the skills they would otherwise develop as new firm associates. FAIL. Another degree, other than the J.D., just to learn what they failed to teach you in law school? You must be kidding!
Mr. White draws comparisons between the Medical Profession and the rotations offered to medical students and the practical training offered by Northeastern, which offers three semesters of real life experience in the law. Kudos to Northeastern, but that's only one school.
He also draws comparisons between the legal education systems of England and Canada, which incorporate training into becoming an attorney. That would be great, except that we dilly dally with four years of undergrad first--a problem that amounts to large amounts of money owed before you can even support yourself in your profession. As it stands, we are 25 when we graduate from school. In England the "continuing legal education" stage of training takes 3 years before you become a full-fledged attorney. That means that we'd all be pushing 30 once we'd be able to practice. Is that acceptable?
Here's Mr. White's solution to becoming competent lawyer, rather than a J.D.:
The first, second, and third years of law school will remain unchanged. The only major change to the educational system currently in place will be the addition of practice-based elements to the existing requirements. The fourth year will consist entirely of real-world experience and will not contain a classroom component. This fourth year will be similar to the United States medical model and the English and Canadian legal models. This new four-year model of instruction will expose students to the actual practice of law with direct oversight from an active member of the bar. This new model will mandate that every student attending an ABA-accredited law school during their fourth year participate in either an in-house live client clinic or work for an LSC-funded program.Well, like I said. Law School is too long as it is. We don't need the third year, and arguably half of the second. If this fourth year costs an additional year of tuition, I am adamantly opposed to it. If this is included in the three years of tuition, I will entertain the idea. However, as I said... it begs the question: Why doesn't law school prepare you to be a lawyer?