More Apprenticeship Attorneys

One idea for legal education reform that I’ve talked about before and want to repeat is that more states should allow people to take the bar exam without earning a JD. Until the early twentieth century, it was common for lawyers to get their training by serving as an apprentice to a licensed attorney for a period of years.  This cannot, of course, fully substitute for law schools.  Some people want more academic training or the opportunities available at a school with a broad curriculum.  And there are only so many attorneys with the time or inclination to mentor apprentices.  Still, why should state law block this path?  Everyone has to pass the same bar exam. If a course that would allow students to earn money rather than rack up debt to become lawyers would work for some, then it should be an option.

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2 Responses

  1. Aaron says:

    Excellent point. As a recent law grad, I was shocked at how poorly law school prepares one to successfully complete the bar exam. What’s more marketable, being able to hold an intelligent conversation on, i.e., first amendment jurisprudence, or actually being able to draft a pleading and follow the trial rules?

  2. Lurker says:

    You should also bring up the point about diversity: if such scheme for apprenticeship were organised, it would essentially mean that you become a lawyer by starting as a paralegal. (It is quite clear that an “apprentice” would be essentially working as a paralegal, regardless of licensure details.)

    The current paralegals are, quite likely, coming from lower socioeconomic background than JD graduates. They are also more often female or non-white. Thus, if you want to make an apprenticeship scheme a way to law profession, you should form it so that the current paralegals can satisfy the work experience requirements by their current experience.

    Of course, this is also the greatest obstacle to such a program. It would increase social mobility a bit too much.