Monday, April 21, 2014
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The New York bar has led the charge in challenging law schools to graduate "practice ready" lawyers. In 2011, the New York State Bar Association presented a resolution to the ABA urging "that the legal education providers focus on making future lawyers practice ready by enhancing clinical work and supervised activities such as meeting with clients inside and outside the clinical setting and in court, and developing further capstone courses." The resolution drew on a report issued earlier that year by the state bar association's Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession.
Law schools are increasingly trying to meet this challenge. Although some professors consider the objective unattainable, law schools occasionally claim success in producing "practice ready" lawyers. The legitimacy of the claim may depend on what one means by "practice ready." It is unrealistic to expect new graduates to do whatever senior lawyers can do—for example, to litigate a complex commercial case or negotiate a complicated business deal. Few graduates will be able to establish successful law practices in the areas in which they aspire ultimately to work. But if the idea is not to prepare graduates to practice independently, but to ready them for entry-level positions in which they will receive training and supervision, law schools today do far better than 20 or 40 years ago. The 2007 Carnegie Report is among the most significant influences on this latest turn in legal education.
Senior lawyers might not recognize today's law schools, which, at their best, provide abundant opportunities for students to "learn while doing" and to receive substantial feedback on the work they perform.
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Extensive thought and planning go into law schools' experiential offerings to ensure that they provide more than just on-the-job training. Clinical professors give students much more supervision, feedback and critique than new lawyers receive in actual practice because clinics expressly aim to use legal work as a focal point for learning.
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