Friday, December 16, 2011

How long does law school need to be?

Is three years enough time to train a future lawyer?

One answer is another question: what does it mean to say a future lawyer has been trained?

And one answer to that second question is: "a lawyer is trained when she is ready to practice law on her own." There is a logic to this answer: a law degree in the US entitles you to take the bar exam and, if you pass it and your state's character test, you are legally entitled to practice law. There are a few areas of law for which some additional credential is absolutely required, but not many.

But in fact, as a colleague of mine has said, no one in his right mind would hire such a lawyer to handle important matters if he had the money to choose someone he trusted. Nor would any senior lawyer hand over difficult cases to a new subordinate without further training and supervision -- again, assuming the lawyer's organization had the resources for these steps.

Whether or not law school should prepare people to practice on their own, in other words, it seems that few believe it does. One way to understand that consensus is to say that it seems to be widely felt that three years is not enough.

More precisely, it seems to be widely felt that three years of law school as currently constituted is not enough.

The next question (for my next post) is  "how much more -- or different -- do we need?"

No comments:

Post a Comment