practical/clinical training

A lot of ink is spilled over whether or not law schools are failing to produce “practice ready” lawyers. What does it mean to be practice ready? There really isn’t a great definition. I mean, do we want law students to walk out prepared to run their own firms? Argue before the Supreme Court? Draft a credit-default swap agreement from memory? Serve as a bankruptcy trustee? How much practical know-how should we demand our law schools instill?

That doesn’t really matter, “practice ready” looks great on a bumper sticker.

For my money, the phrase means lawyers prepared enough not to drool on their desks when a partner (or supervisor or judge) starts showing them the way they want their young lawyers to practice law. Because make no mistake, lawyers are always practice unready in the eyes of their employers until they do the job exactly the employers’ way. This is why clinics serve an important role in law schools. Not that 6 months of being a glorified paralegal builds a wealth of practical legal know-how, but because 6 months of trying to figure out how to deploy what you do happen to know to satisfy a demanding legal boss is the soul of being a junior lawyer.

To that end, there’s a new ranking of the top clinical programs in law schools with some surprising (or not, depending on your point of view) results….

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A couple weeks ago, we shared with you some of our survey data, which showed that, generally speaking, law students’ experiences with their schools degrade over time. The ATL Insider Survey asks law students and alumni to rate their schools in the areas of academic instruction, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life. When the ratings by first-year students are compared with those of third-years, the 3L scores are lower across the board, in all categories. In other words, the longer students are exposed to their schools, the lower their regard for the institution becomes. More equals worse.

We wondered whether or how this downward trajectory manifests itself after the students become alumni. After the jump, we compare the perceptions of students to those of graduates. The answer may surprise you, but probably not. Also, we identify the law schools where there is the greatest contrast between the views of current students and alumni — both negatively and positively….

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