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Monday, December 05, 2011

Home Schooling Esq?

An article in today’s National Law Journal, "Law School: Who Needs It?  Reading the Law Remains an Option But Carries its Own Challenges,"  talks about “reading the law” – the idea of teaching yourself law or apprenticing with experienced lawyers before starting to practice law school.  Some states still allow prospective lawyers to skip law school entirely, or supplement fewer than three years of law school with an apprenticeship. 

The Carnegie Report tells us we need more practice-ready lawyers.  The ABA requires us to include skills training in the curriculum.  So should this be the way of the future?  With ever increasing law school tution, and more discussions on where the tuition dollars go and the utility of academic scholarship, is the academy under threat?

According to Ms. Sloan, California, Vermont, Virginia and Washington allow an apprenticeship instead of law school; Maine, New York and Wyoming allow a hybrid approach of some formal law school plus a legal apprenticeship.  Isn't this really just a multi year live client clinic? It's the ultimate in skills training.

The programs don't seem to be too popular presently.  One reason may be the issue of the portability of a law license obtained through these avenues- in most cases, the only state that recognizes these licenses are the states that issue them.  I'd also like to believe that law school actually adds value, but we'll save that post for another day.

The apprenticeship is an interesting idea.  Many of our students do externships, and explore this idea in a more diluted form, along with traditional doctrinal classes and skills and clinical offerings.

Should we broaden it?  Some law schools allow full semesters of appreticeships.  Should we go further? We permit home schooling for K-12; why not for law school?  But home schooling for K-12 is subject to regulation and oversight- the home schooled K-12 students are tested along with the traditionally schooled kids, and their curricula are monitored. These law apprenticehip programs sounds like they are pretty loose, with the end game simply whether the candidate passes the bar exam. 

Not to be too cynical, but reasonable minds can differ on whether that's a valid exclusive measure here.  Again, we should probably save that for another post!!


Posted by Miriam Albert on December 5, 2011 at 11:27 AM | Permalink


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Home school students are continuously out scoring public school students. I think there is a lot to be looked at by college level studies. The cost of higher level studies is rising and jobs availability is decreasing. So the overall solution may be home school courses and testing to make sure the student understands the course. If passing the bar is a requirement of the states to practice law then the test should be sufficient. I also think a record of cases won and lost, along with what type of cases should be available to the public so they can make reasonable choices when looking for a lawyer.

Posted by: Chris Shaw | Dec 5, 2011 6:11:26 PM

They need not be mutually exclusive. 1L is probably helpful to get the logic and type of writing that one needs to pass the essay portion of most states' bar exams, as well as familiarizing oneself generally with the terms of art and concepts one expects to see in the bar prep class. (However, I imagine that the bar prep course providers will simply adjust by providing more in-depth offerings for people who haven't done law school, competing directly with 1L for tuition dollars.) After that, you could be working with somebody who's agreed to help you get started in exchange for your cheap labor, while borrowing nothing for tuition or room and board. Maybe you're very narrowly focused if you hold the briefcase of a sole practitioner in criminal defense, domestic relations or personal injury, but at least you'll see the clients, the pleadings, the appearances and the business of that lawyer's practice.

BigLaw won't hire people like this. Maybe MediumLaw won't, either. On the other hand, half of us aren't finding work anywhere in the law. If you want to match the costs of training with all of these allegedly worthy causes crying out for representation, this isn't such a bad idea.

Posted by: John | Dec 5, 2011 3:40:07 PM

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