Thursday, September 25, 2014

Young lawyers talk about needed law school reforms

An editorial in Philadelphia's Legal Intelligencer (the nation's oldest daily law journal) authored by 16 members of the "Young Lawyer Editorial Board" offers the perspective of lawyers who are just starting their way up the learning curve about what they think law schools could do better to prepare students for practice.  For one, they endorse the "residency" model we've heard about before (here, here and here) that is based on the training interns receive in medical school.  They also say that law schools should offer more hands-on opportunities to draft complex contracts, real estate and M & A documents, draft a variety of litigation documents and take depos.  I thought by now most schools were doing these kinds of things but maybe not based on the experience of these 16 recent grads.  I'll let them explain in their own words what additional curricular changes they'd like to see:

If Unchanged, Legal Education Will Remain a Business in Decline

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Last month, the ABA announced that it has endorsed a package of reforms that included requiring students to take a minimum of six hours of legal clinic or other "experiential" environment. The ABA further announced that, to protect accreditation, law schools would have to shift toward focusing on student outcomes, including passing the bar exam and obtaining employment.

 

We think these reforms are a good start, but they still fall short. One reason graduates have difficulty obtaining employment is that most of them need to be trained in how to practice law, and clients are unwilling to pay for training new lawyers. Law schools need to step up and train students on how to practice law. While a six-hour legal clinic is helpful in providing some practical experience, we think that third-year law students should be given credit for working at government agencies, nonprofits and law firms as unpaid or paid interns. The programs could be similar to the training physicians receive as residents immediately after graduating. This legal residency program would be a radical change in legal education that cannot be implemented overnight, but it is a necessary change that the ABA should move toward.

 

Not only would the legal residency program help recent graduates, but it would also help the profession as a whole. Rather than spending the first year or two training graduates, new lawyers would be better able to handle matters on their own and provide more value to clients. As it stands right now, clients are being forced to pay for training that the graduate should have gained in law school. No one can blame clients for opposing that scam.

 

In addition, law schools should take the radical step of offering courses in practical skills to help prepare law students for the actual practice of law. Many schools are implementing such changes. For example, Temple University's Beasley School of Law offers an excellent trial advocacy program for current and future litigators. Other types of classes that should be more widely offered are the drafting of complex contract, real estate and mergers and acquisition documents, as well as practical skills in litigation, such as taking a deposition, drafting a complaint and answer and drafting discovery requests. These classes will not only help graduates be better prepared to practice law, but also provide them an opportunity to experience different practices before starting their careers.

 

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Continue reading the full editorial here.

(jbl).

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2014/09/new-lawyers-talk-about-needed-law-school-reforms.html

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