October 25, 2005
Legal Education and Apprenticeships
Posted by Gordon Smith

Over the past several decades, law schools have undergone a revolution in clinical education, and two recent announcements highlight the continued integration of apprenticeship experiences with traditional classroom education.

First, Stanford Law School recently opened its new Clinic Center, "with opportunities for students to work on capital defense, criminal prosecution, cyberlaw, youth and education advocacy, environmental law, immigrants' rights, community law, international community law (in Ghana) and Supreme Court litigation." The Director of the Center has announced a goal of requiring every student who graduates from Stanford to have a clinical experience prior to graduation.

Second, Drexel University recently announced the creation of a new "cooperative" law school. Under the co-op program, half of the students in the law school work in full-time jobs at law firms, corporations, nonprofit groups, and government agencies, while the other half are in the classroom. Then they switch. The Drexel program is similar to Northeastern's cooperative program, and the goal is to produce graduates who are more qualified to begin the practice of law than graduates who focus primarily on classwork.

One thing we have not seen law schools attempt, as far as I know, is imposing a work experience requirement on new admits. Business schools expect their students to gain some real-world experience before embarking on their graduate study. In my view as a teacher, law students benefit greatly from prior work experience. I am partial to experience outside of the legal industry, though working as a paralegal or legal assistant can be valuable, too. The main point is to have some engagement with the world of work so that the student can imagine the conflicts and potential conflicts that lie at the heart of the study of law.

Despite my enthusiasm for work experience before law school, I am less enthusiastic about the expansion of clinical experiences during law school. Clinics are an expensive means of delivering legal education, and their effectiveness is constrained by the academic calendar and by competing demands on student attention. Also, clinicians tend to be an evangelical lot, spreading the gospel of practical skills training. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) message of their evangelism is that intellectual engagement with the law distracts from the real purpose of law school. In my view, this is exactly backwards. Law school is the time to develop an intellectual framework for thinking about law. Some practical skills training is useful, but mainly to illuminate and enrich the intellectual experience, not to supplant it. Graduates of law schools will spend most of their careers developing practical skills, and as much as future employers might want us to teach such skills in law school, it is not our comparative advantage.

Law Schools/Lawyering | Bookmark

TrackBacks (0)

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Links to weblogs that reference Legal Education and Apprenticeships:

Recent Comments
Popular Threads
Search The Glom
The Glom on Twitter
Archives by Topic
Archives by Date
January 2019
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
Miscellaneous Links