Thursday, November 10, 2022
Bloomberg Law Op-Ed: Making the Path to a Law Degree More Accessible for Everyone, by A. Benjamin Spencer (Dean, William & Mary; Google Scholar):
As the cost of higher education—and associated student loan debt—continue to mount, consumers and observers rightly voice concern about its value.
Legal education is no exception. Indeed, Justice Neil Gorsuch recently wondered, “Does it really require seven years of collegiate education to become a competent lawyer?”
The answer to that question clearly is no.
Yes, the education provided by traditional law schools—which typically takes three years after an undergraduate program—provides a sound foundation for becoming a legal counselor and advocate, as well as outstanding transferrable skills and a path to licensure. Attorneys who have taken the traditional path to legal practice in the US are well-positioned to serve.
That said, we should not fool ourselves into supposing that this well-worn path is the exclusive or necessarily the best route to becoming a lawyer.
Many countries place principal responsibility for legal education on a partnership between the undergraduate programs at universities and the practicing bar. ...
\Gorsuch’s musings raise the need for actual reform that will create a viable, alternate path to the practice of law that is more affordable. For this to happen, bar examination authorities, legal education leaders, and members of the practicing bar must come together to discuss these alternative paths that can deliver solid legal training without plunging legal aspirants into punishing debt.
More importantly, strengthening alternative paths to legal practice will ensure that the profession is accessible to people from all walks of life, which will enhance the pursuit of justice that matters so much.