Edited by Laura Morrison for GradSchools.com, February 2014
Students may not have much control over what or how they learn in the graduate programs they're enrolled in, but that hasn't stopped people from questioning the current law school format.
While law school plays an essential role in society, there's no reason why the ways in which legal instruction are delivered can't change. Considering how much the job market for graduates of Juris Doctor programs has changed. These days, everyone from law school admissions officers to President Barack Obama have an opinion as to how legal education needs to evolve to prepare tomorrow's lawyers.
A competitive job market
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the good news is that job growth for lawyers isn't expected to decline in the years ahead. In fact, employment opportunities are projected to increase by 10 percent through 2022. However, competition for jobs is expected to be strong.
This challenge is directly related to the fact that although students continue to graduate from law school, there aren't always enough positions for them to fill, the BLS reports. As is the case in any field where competition over jobs is stiff, individuals need to do what they can to ensure they stand out in a sea of applicants. For potential lawyers, this means acquiring the skills they need to be considered practice-ready.
Law school changes could produce more capable graduates
If legal students are to tackle the challenges of the modern job market, law schools need to change. That's the opinion many pre-law students, as well as law school admissions officers, have, according to a pair of Kaplan Test Prep surveys.
For example, the results of a February 2014 survey revealed that of 1,378 pre-law students, 97 percent want to see law schools incorporate more clinical experience. It's believed that such a move could make them practice-ready.
Future lawyers aren't the only people who think this way, based on the responses to an October 2013 Kaplan Test Prep survey. Admissions officers from 203 law schools participated, and 78 percent of them said the U.S. legal education system needs to change.
"The good news is that most law schools say they are already taking measures to provide better practical training for their students," said Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep's director of pre-law programs, in a statement. "While it's clear there will be more changes and challenges ahead for legal education, ideally schools are looking at ways to better prepare tomorrow's lawyers for finding a job and succeeding in their careers."
A friend in the White House
Those who believe law schools need to change have an ally in the White House. President Barack Obama, who graduated from law school, believes that the time legal students spend in school needs to be reduced. He revealed his views during an August 2013 town hall.
"I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years - because by the third year - in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom," Obama said. "The third year they'd be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren't getting paid that much. But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student."
Kaplan Test Prep found that 58 percent of pre-law students agree that it should take less time to earn a Juris Doctor. However, despite these very public opinions, Kaplan Test Prep doesn't expect law schools to make their graduate programs shorter any time soon.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010