Legal Education and the Legal Profession: Convergence or Divergence?
26 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2012
Date Written: 2012
Legal education serves multiple functions in preparing graduates for the legal services market and in “sorting” graduates for jobs in the legal services market. In regard to preparation, law schools provide the context in which graduates acquire specialized knowledge and critical thinking skills, training in lawyering skills, and formation in professional identity - the three “apprenticeships” of the Carnegie Foundation’s study, Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law. In regard to “sorting” graduates for the legal services market, students sort themselves by their choice of law school and then law schools and law students together accomplish a “sorting” of those within any given law school through the assessment of each student’s performance over three years. This essay looks at the training and sorting functions of law schools and asks whether legal education and the legal profession are on paths that are converging or on paths that are diverging, or both. Phrased differently, in fulfilling the training functions and sorting functions described above, do law schools (collectively “legal education”) support sufficiently the needs of their graduates as members of the legal profession in the twenty-first century and of society and the clients their graduates will serve?
Keywords: legal education, law school, lawyering skills, professional identity, professional formation, Carnegie report, legal profession
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