The Fully Formed Lawyer: Why Law Schools Should Require Public Service to Better Prepare Students for Private Practice

10 Pages Posted: 3 May 2013 Last revised: 1 Oct 2014

See all articles by Sara Rankin

Sara Rankin

Seattle University School of Law

Date Written: May 2, 2013

Abstract

It is now commonly accepted that law schools are graduating students who are under-prepared for practice in the real world. In other words, students that perform adequately in the classroom seem to struggle or suffer — to an unnecessary degree — when they enter practice. It is as though law schools are graduating inchoate or “partially-formed” lawyers, who demonstrate classroom fluency but lack meaningful ability to grapple with the wrinkles and complexity of real-world practice. The bottom line is that to create practice-ready or “fully formed” lawyers, law schools should reform to prioritize hands-on training in public service.

It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that the key to private practice skills is to emphasize public interest experience during law school, but there are several reasons why the private sector should support it: through public service, law students can (1) help to address the current access to counsel crisis; (2) learn their moral and professional obligations to provide pro bono service; (3) receive incomparable training in core lawyering skills; and (4) sustain their emotional and psychological health by connecting with relevant, meaningful work.

Keywords: public interest, pro bono, public service, clinical skills, lawyering skills, legal writing, lawyering process, legal education reform

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Rankin, Sara, The Fully Formed Lawyer: Why Law Schools Should Require Public Service to Better Prepare Students for Private Practice (May 2, 2013). Chapman Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2259866

Sara Rankin (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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