What if you really could learn how to practice law in law school?


Two law professors have come up with an admittedly radical proposal, designed to help law students learn real world lawyering skills before they graduate: law schools that operate their own law firm.

The idea is akin to what doctors do by working in teaching hospitals. You get hands-on experience working on real cases for real clients, under the supervision of real attorneys. What’s radical about that?

Clearly, law students need the experience of working with real clients, and maybe I’m missing something, but how is this idea better than working as a law clerk while you’re in school? Instead, why not simply mandate so many hours of clerking experience during law school, and possibly after, as a condition precedent to issuing a license?

Everyone knows that law schools do a poor job of preparing graduates for the actual practice of law. I’m willing to hear more about the law school firm idea but right now, I say let law schools teach theory and law firms teach practice.

A comment to the ABA Journal’s post about this story sums it up best: “For 70 years, law schools have “trained” lawyers how to be not ready-for-prime-time. What makes you think THEY know how to practice law. More ivory tower fantasy.”

What do you think? Is this a good idea?



  1. Paul Watson says

    Back a decade or two (or three) the University of Maine had its own legal aid clinic where we dealt with real clients and got into the courtroom a time or two. Made things a little easier when we had to do it solo.

  2. I was very pleased with the University of New Mexico. We had several clinical experiences to choose from. I spent two semesters working in the Southwest Indian Law Clinic where I learned a bit about divorce, custody, won my first DWI case, and did an internship with a Navajo tribal judge. UNM Law School is very practical based in comparison to other law schools. most of us become solo or small firm practitioners in a very diverse state.

    • No doubt about it, Jay, there is no better way to learn how to practice in the real world than by working with real clients. Internships should be required for lawyers, just like they are for doctors. Thanks for sharing your experience.