I read an interesting post called Learning to Run recently from legal consultant, Jordan Furlong. In the post Jordan questions whether law schools are preparing law students for the practice of law as it is evolving. As Jordan says,
So the talent is there. Virtually everyone who’s in or preparing to enter the legal profession has speed. But not everyone in the legal profession can run well. And the newer you are, the more this is true. It’s almost universally the case for law students and new lawyers, in fact, who have received almost no training to help turn their talents into skills with which they can serve clients and make a living. (And I don’t just mean “practice” training; the tools with which you become a great lawyer include a really solid grounding in jurisprudence, legal history, and ethical philosophy, and not many law degrees can say they deliver that.)
Jordan further points out his belief that law schools are so far behind the curve that they are unlikely to lead conversations toward a better legal education system and training system.
For the most part, I tend to agree with Jordan. However, there is at least one law school, right here in Iowa, that is doing it’s best to change that dynamic with its practical programs. My alma mater, Drake University Law School boasts some of the best clinical legal programs in the country where the students represent clients under the guidance of lawyers who have actually practiced law. According to Drake’s statistics, 86% of Drake’s law students enroll in the law school’s clinical programs or internships. Further, all first year law students observe a trial and have an opportunity to engage in a Q & A with the lawyers, judges and jury. These are the building block opportunities law students need to develop the skills Jordan talks about to become successful in the practice of law.
Others like Susan Cartier Liebel seems to have filled a market niche with her Solo Practice University that is accomplishing just what Jordan says is missing out there. Her business is a Web based educational and networking community for solo lawyers and law students. Through SPU, young lawyers can learn from experienced lawyers on topics ranging from law practice management to specific specialized fields.
But I agree there needs to be even more offerings for young lawyers so they can ”run well” in the practice of law. Not only is the business of law changing dramatically but our clients’ expectations and demands are changing too. When I started practice lawyers didn’t have stiff competition from companies like LegalZoom (which boasts it has over 2 million satisfied customers) or dozens of other document filing companies that proliferate the Internet.
What do you think? Are law schools preparing young lawyers for the changing legal profession? Heck, are the majority of practicing lawyers prepared for the changes in the legal profession?