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?"