The Joke of Law School Practical Training

Many law schools have been implementing courses and options with the goal of helping students become “practice ready”. The idea is to make their graduates more marketable.

In theory it sounds like a good idea because employers will spend less time training and students will have an understanding of the procedural nuances (both official and unofficial) of  litigation or transactional work. It is also a good alternative to taking one of several useless black letter classes.

But there are some problems that makes me wonder whether a law school’s “practice ready” curriculum will be successful. The first and the most obvious is that this doesn’t solve the overall problem of there not being enough jobs. When two “practice ready” graduates are competing for one job, then one will lose out.

The second problem is that a new hire will always need some level of training. A firm will want their employees to write pleadings and motions a certain way. The new hire may need to learn how to use the firm’s legal research system. Depending on the complexity of the firm’s internal procedures and office politics, training time can be minimal to substantial. And of course, the client will be billed for this too.

The third problem is that for T14s or other schools where graduates place nationally, it will be difficult to implement a “national” practice ready program. I can’t imagine Harvard and Boston College implementing a class or clinic focusing on litigating civil or criminal claims in Massachusetts. Most of their graduates will be practicing elsewhere. I realize that top schools may not have the employment problem that shittier schools do and may not need a practice ready curriculum. But some of these “top” schools have reported some shocking employment numbers lately so they too may be looking into implementing a practice ready program in the future.

The reality is that most law firms don’t really want “practice ready” graduates. What they want are (1) rainmakers or potential rainmakers who know how to take money from people; (2) someone who can influence judges and other “deciders”; and to a lesser extent (3) someone who can create a winning argument with the worst facts. So if law schools want to increase their graduates’ marketability, they should focus on creating lawyers with one of the above three attributes with a heavy emphasis on (1).


One thought on “The Joke of Law School Practical Training

  1. Nando

    That last paragraph nailed it perfectly! Firms and agencies don’t want run of the mill, “practice ready” law grads. I was a student attorney during my last semester of law school at Third Tier Drake. I represented broke-ass, petty misdemeanor criminal defendants. Does anyone with an IQ above 60 think that non-law employers give a rat’s ass about that experience?! This is where a LARGE portion of clinical students end up, after law school. For $ome rea$on, the law school pigs “forget” to mention this reality to the students.


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