To Practice Law, Apprentice First


Like medical residents, law school graduates would practice for two years under experienced supervision, at reduced hourly rates, with suspended debt repayment.
Op-Ed (NATIONAL, New Jersey)

John J. Farmer Jr.
New York Times (NYT)
February 17, 2013
Link to story

Tags: Justice Gap, Law School Clinics, Legal Needs


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Legal education has not so much failed the profession as mirrored it. Law schools have trained students for a profession that has left a huge part of the public unable to afford representation — especially the middle class — and at a cost that perpetuates the problem.

There is a way out. Law schools and the legal profession could restore a vibrant job market by making representation easier to obtain. In doing so, they would revive their historic commitment to the balance between acquiring wealth and promoting civic virtue.
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Let’s scrap this system. We need, at its entry level, the equivalent of a medical residency. Law school graduates would practice for two years or so, under experienced supervision, at reduced hourly rates; repaying their debts could be suspended, as it is for medical residents.

Law firms would be able to hire more lawyers, at the lower rates, and give talented graduates of less prestigious institutions a chance to shine. The firms, at the end of the residencies, could then select whom to keep. Even for those who don’t make the cut, the residency will have provided valuable experience. The law firms should be required, under this proposal, to offer stipends to help those residents who don’t make the cut but have debt burdens.
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In theory, there would be no restriction on the types of matters residents could undertake. At Rutgers, where I teach, students in clinics work on commercial transactions as well as criminal cases. Many states restrict the activities of law students; but residents, as new lawyers, would be able to litigate and give legal advice without restriction.