Monday, June 29, 2009

More on the private sector apprenticeships to make-up for lack of adequate law school training

We'd previously reported here that a few BigLaw firms were slashing new associate pay and instead offering them a one to two year apprenticeship to teach new grads what the law schools are apparently not.  At a time when job security for legal writing professors, clinicians and librarians is coming under attack from within the legal academy (related story here), some employers are saying loud and clear that law schools are not doing an adequate job teaching students how to actually practice law.  The price of a legal education keeps increasing while the financial value of that degree - both to the graduates themselves and employers - is declining - certainly in the short term.  Nevertheless, the ABA keeps approving more new law schools (follow up story here).  

Interestingly, in a non-scientific poll, Above The Law asked its readers what they think of the salary cut in exchange for post-graduate training and a whopping 70% said they liked it (or at least liked it better than a deferral).

And in a password protected article in the National Law Journal, there's a report that more firms are jumping on the apprenticeship bandwagon.  Here's an excerpt courtesy of ATL:

[Ford & Harrison and Dallas' Strasburger & Price] are putting new recruits through additional apprenticeship programs that they say will better train their attorneys for life at a law firm and for handling clients. Think of it as the equivalent of a medical residency, only with suits instead of scrubs.

The latest -- and so far largest -- firm to move to an apprenticeship model, 659-lawyer Howrey, announced its program last week. Starting next year, first-years at the firm will get a pay cut -- from $160,000 to $100,000 in base pay plus a $25,000 bonus to pay down law school loans -- and they'll spend a good portion of their time attending classes with partners and shadowing them on client matters. The apprenticeship period will last two years.

While this hardly makes a sustained trend, change is certainly afoot in the private sector as firms look to adjust the salary of new law graduates to a level more commensurate with their skills as well as find a means to supplement the skills training that they feel law schools are failing to provide.  One would hope that employers (read:  large donors) would put pressure on law schools to place more emphasis on skills training but that may be naive thinking on my part.

The current economic circumstances coupled with renewed interest in skills training generated by such studies as the Carnegie Report and Best Practices for Legal Education, make me believe that there are major opportunities here for skills faculty if we take the initiative.  

I am the scholarship dude.


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One way the legal writing academy can "take the initiative" is to reach out and make connections with the practicing bar. This is what the 2010 Biennial Planning Committee was thinking when we decided to initiate a "practitioners' track" at the Marco Island conference next summer.

If we can get practitioners to participate in our conference, maybe we can initiate a good dialog between the academy and the law firms as to what the proper role of the law schools might be, and what the law firms might be expected to do on their own. That intersection covers a pretty wide, and very gray, area, about which we could usefully engage in a conversation.

Ken Chestek
President-Elect of LWI and Co-Chair of the 14th Biennial Conference of the Legal Writing Institute

Posted by: Ken Chestek | Jun 29, 2009 3:54:46 PM

Brilliant, hoping similar apprenticeship schemes will be rolled out in the UK.

Posted by: Apprenticeships | Jul 3, 2009 1:12:52 AM

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