An ABA task force recently found that only 56% of recent law school graduates achieve full-time employment as an attorney within twelve months of graduation, over the last five years, applicants to law schools have declined by roughly 50% from approximately 100,000 to approximately 50,000 per year.
This will have a dramatic impact on the availability of lawyers for the American public. And couple this statistic with the more than 400,000 lawyers who will retire in the next 10 years, and you will see a dramatic change in the legal landscape.
For those who complain that there are too many lawyers, this should satisfy their desire to thin the ranks of lawyers. For those who want to better serve those currently under-served Americans, this will add yet another challenge to the system. And for lawyers, the likelihood increases that the Bar will add yet another requirement of pro bono service and added cost to doing business as a lawyer.
Join us on LawBiz Forum in the discussion about legal education and the current reexamination of its efficacy for teaching management skills for success. Will the law school tumble into the morass of being a trade school (heaven forbib!) by including such skills in its curriculum? Let us know what you think …
Doctors, like lawyers, have little or no business education in medical/law school. Today’s Wall Street Journal (Education for Executives) discusses doctors journey back to school (business) in order to learn skills that were omitted from their medical education. They need these skills in order to run their medical practices, medical groups and hospitals.
Doctors outreach for management training demonstrates a recent shift in thinking: "…we are much more similar to other businesses that we are different." Taking the business side of medicine more seriously can benefit not only doctors, but also patients, a fact slowly being understood in the medical profession.
Why is it that doctors are ahead of lawyers in this understanding? Why is it that medical schools are incorporating management principles into their teaching and few, if any, law schools do? Why is it that lawyers continue to be reactive, rather than be proactive? Worse still, why is it that lawyers fail to react to their clients wishes? Bar disciplinary proceedings continue to show that more than 50% of clients’ complaints relate to poor management practices. Why?
Regular readers may recall my strong belief that young lawyers do not learn in law school the fundamentals of what they should know to practice law. In contrast to doctors (who put in years of residency, hospital and clinic work, and other apprenticeship before they begin their own practices), young lawyers begin their professional careers with little hands-on experience in “The Business of Law”® or practical client service. The result far too often is unhappy lawyers, unhappy law firms and unhappy clients as the young lawyers try to learn in “the school of hard knocks” what law schools did not teach them.
I’ve written about many possible models to provide this training – articling programs in Canada and the U.K., pro bono internships, law firm training apprenticeships, CLE specialist education, and more. Recently I surveyed the readers of LawBiz® Blog and asked whether they thought on-the-job training of new lawyers before they enter practice was a good idea. The unanimous answer was “yes.” As to what form this training should take from a variety of options presented, nearly 60% of respondents said that law firms over a certain size (revenue or head count), as well as public interest law firms, should be required to engage a pro rata number of graduates, whether they end up working for those firms or not. An even higher percentage of respondents, nearly 85% suggested that the courts (both trial and appellate) should make available clerkships for the graduates, or that law schools should create seminars and practicum programs to teach the skills lacking in the normal curriculum.
Especially interesting were a number of other ideas that the survey participants suggested. These practicing lawyers had some excellent thoughts on the type of training that would benefit those entering the profession:
Work at a company under the direction of an in-house lawyer (admitted to practice in the state where the work is done) with management responsibility within the legal affairs department.
Externships at government agencies such as the SEC, state securities commissioners, the Patent and Trademark Office, state corporations departments, state revenue departments, state legislatures and accounting/audit firms of a certain size.
Law school placement of third year students in extern programs, with the success and extent of the placement becoming a major criterion in evaluation of the school’s performance by U.S. News & World Report, Barron’s and others that evaluate law schools.
Requiring that all law school graduates who pass the bar exam serve an apprenticeship program under the direct supervision of a member in good standing of the bar who shall, at the conclusion of the apprenticeship, attest to the legal proficiencies of the new lawyer and recommend to the state bar that the apprenticeship be considered successfully concluded
Turning the third year of instruction in law school into an apprenticeship program, replacing the courses that are taken in the final year just to fill out the time
If you have other ideas, I’d welcome hearing them. Perhaps together we can begin a groundswell of opinion in which real lawyers, rather than just law school professors, have a say in legal education.
At least one law firm gets it! They have created an internship program rather than delay the entrance of its new 37 hires. Great idea in development. Best wishes to Drinker Biddle for their efforts. See additional commentary on this.