Best Schools for Practical Training, Nat'l Jurist, p. 22, Spring 2016:
Annually, The National Jurist honors those schools that go above and beyond in preparing law students for the real world in our ranking of Best Law Schools for Practical Training. We look at a number of factors, including which schools have the greatest percentage of students in clinics, externships and simulation courses. We also look at the most robust moot court options. [Methodology (number of positions filled/number of 2Ls & 3Ls): Clinics (38%), Externships (24%), Simulations (21%), Additional Offerings (0%), Interschool Competitions (5%).]
Jeffrey Baker witnesses the power of practical training on a daily basis. He's the director of clinical education at Pepperdine University School of Law, which finished 10th on our list, with an A+. "Students are hungry for it," he said.
The drop in law school enrollment has had one silver lining, he said. The students coming to law school today are "coming very deliberately," he said. They are not coming because it's a fallback plan or because they're seeking a ticket to a middle-class lifestyle, he said. They want to be lawyers.
So students are looking for schools that provide them opportunities to hone their craft. Pepperdine University is adopting new requirements for students. Starting with the Class of 2017, students must complete 15 units of experiential learning and 50 hours of pro bono service.
Baker has heard no complaints from students about practical training demands. Yet there are some students who are seeking a law career for financial reward — the field can still provide substantial earnings to top performers, after all — but even they can gain benefit from doing such work, Baker said. "We are public servants," he said.
Practical training has a number of benefits, he said. For one, people in need of legal services receive them via clinics. Second, legal aid and government agencies perform better and more efficiently, thanks to help they receive from students who take part in externships. And thirdly, students build public service ethics that hopefully will continue throughout their careers, regardless of what field they enter.
Baker has been amazed at how well students work in these settings. "They put so much heart into it," he said.
Like others overseeing clinics, he sees students transform as well. "There's a shift. They realize they are working for a client and not their GPA," he said. "They realize someone's life is in their hands. I bear witness to that all the time."
The Best Law Schools For Practical Training (2015)