This isn’t going to come as a galloping shock to anybody, but recent law school graduates who have just finished their third year of law school think that law school should have stopped after the first two years.
Well, maybe it will come as a shock to Yale Law professors, but I think that people who have actually been listening to the concerns of students and graduates are well aware that the third year of law school does not provide enough utility to justify the time and cost.
You don’t have to take my word for it, Kaplan did a survey…
Kaplan surveyed 712 law graduates from the class of 2013. It looks like they agree with President Obama that law school should only be two years. From the survey:
- 87% of new law school graduates surveyed say that the U.S. legal education system needs “to undergo significant changes to better prepare future attorneys for the changing employment landscape and legal profession.” Notably, the American Bar Association, the organization that accredits law schools, agrees with these new JDs and is currently preparing to make recommendations on how to address growing concerns about the cost of a law school education and its effectiveness in preparing graduates to practice. In the meantime though, some law schools are already taking proactive measures on these fronts.
- Specifically, when asked, “Do you think the traditional three-year law school education can be condensed into two years without negatively impacting the practice-readiness of new attorneys?”, 63% answered in the affirmative.
- But if a third year is required, 97% say they favor a law school model that incorporates clinical experience, which is designed to make students more practice-ready. During the first two years of law school, students generally take courses on the basics of law, while the third year is spent taking electives.
Those numbers are pretty overwhelming. Sure, this is the class of 2013, the same class that went to law school in 2010 when it was obvious that the legal job market was going to stink for them when they graduated, but still.
Of course, legal academics have been waging a war in the press to defend the status quo. Some of these educators are experts in pissing in peoples’ ears and telling them it’s raining. I think I know how they’ll dismiss this study. They’ll say something like: “new graduates are in no position to know what kind of skills they’ll need over their long careers.”
When you hear that argument, make sure to laugh. Because what law professors will be saying is that after three years of law school, people still have no idea what skills they need to be a successful attorney. They’ll be admitting that not only does law school fail to teach people practical skills, they aren’t even good at pointing people in the right direction.
The survey numbers about the third year of law school are not surprising. But it is interesting that 97% of people think that if a third year is required there should be a radically different approach. Evidently, these kids do not agree with Maryland Law professor Robert Condlin who thinks that “practice ready” instruction is a myth. But one can understand why. This group of graduates have been told incessantly that employers want “practice ready” graduates, so 97% of them want to be more ready! Somehow.
I don’t think they’d have such a strong opinion on clinics versus classes however, if 97% of them got a job upon graduation. I think that what students really want is for law schools to do a better job of preparing them to get jobs.
Of course, law schools don’t listen to recent graduates. Maybe if prospective students felt this way, change could start from the bottom.