In this upcoming lawsuit, 43 year old Georgetown law student, Rodger Gordon has a valid point and is taking a leave of absence from school to appeal his recent court loss to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming his third year should be optional – that the first two years is more than adequate to sit for the bar exam and he should not have to lose another year of his life or incur substantial debt when it’s not necessary especially since he’s not getting anything of value in his third year.
This jibes very nicely with the recent Carnegie study which says law schools are not providing enough hands-on training to students to make them truly qualified, something I’ve been advocating for almost two decades.
Given the increased competition in the job market, there can be no question that experience and practical training speak louder than a respectable grade point average and a semester as an academic research assistant.
Some are nostalgic about their experiences in law school, nose to a dusty book in the corner of the library contemplating changing the world. But, guest what folks? Idealizing law school is just not going to cut it in today’s marketplace if you want to become a lawyer who can actually pay her law school loans back while finding a meaningful place in the profession and business of law.
We are not suggesting that law schools abandon the promotion of intellectual thought and discourse, but we believe that law school administrators must adapt to what is happening off-campus in the legal community. Law students, with the support of the institutions, should approach the third year as the primary time to get their hands dirty, have some real world training and generally find out what “practicing law” is all about. Today’s third-year law students are no longer willing to incur thousands of dollars in debt only to have professors “bore them to death,” as the old joke goes.
In view of the job marketplace, law schools should prepare students for the real world by providing them with marketable skills. For instance, electronic discovery is a hot topic in litigation, and those with knowledge of the process and the review platforms are at a premium. If recent graduates were able to step right in with little or no formal on-the-job training on e-discovery issues, they would be very marketable.
Schools should consider a “How to Be a Solo Practitioner” class for third-years. One of the benefits about being an attorney is the ability to work for one’s self, rather than for someone else. More and more young lawyers are setting out on their own (or in small partnerships). If law students learn how to provide basic services (estate plans, simple contracts, etc.) and how to run the business side of a small office, they can tread water as solo practitioners. By extension, courses on topics such as “Marketing and Networking Strategies” and “Client Counseling Issues” should also be offered.
Of course, I take umbrage the author sees solo practitioners as ‘treading water’ and not as a viable professional decision which is part of the greater problem. However, just the mere mention of Marketing and Networking strategies and technology as responsible courses in law school should be hailed as miraculous but instead it sends most law schools into a state of hysteria. Why? Because they don’t get it as they sit (falsely) protected in their tenured towers. You get someone discussing cloud computing or social media and they feel their fortress is being dismantled one stone at a time! The irony, offer these types of courses in a third year and you will actually strengthen your position as a law school going forward. The students are demanding it. The clients are demanding it. The profession is demanding. Wake up!
Law school MUST provide practical training. It is not a luxury. It is a mandate.
What do you think?
(H/T to Debra Bruce)