Pre-law students favor change in law school model

The survey, which was released last month, gathered responses from 1,378 students and found that 58 percent of those surveyed wanted a two-year law school model as opposed to the current standard of three years. In addition, 97 percent said they wanted clinical experience incorporated into their education.

Jeff Thomas,  the executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep, said the survey results suggest students are more aware of the requirements of the field they are about to enter.

“Law students today are in-tune to the environment they are about to place themselves (in) and this has not always been the case,” he said.

Since the prerequisites for pre-law students are minimal as long as they maintain a high GPA and a strong LSAT score, some students in the past have not had a clear sense of direction, Thomas said.

Thomas added that the survey indicates students are more aware of how to make themselves marketable in their job economy.

Second-year law student Andrew Gardner knows all too well that law students are advocating for changes to their education.

“Students get bored. Law school doesn’t teach you the law or how to practice, it’s supposed to mold how you think, to teach you to think like a lawyer,” he said.

“A shorter term would allow students to spend two years learning and practicing logical, measured thinking, and a third year actually learning to practice law. No law student without clinical experience or an internship would know how to file a suit in court or respond to a lawsuit.”

Gardner also acknowledged that with the dismal job market in Michigan, straying from the traditional three-year model could hurt an applicant’s chance at landing a job.

While MSU’s College of Law offers several clinics to give students hands-on experience, it has no plans in the near future to change the time it takes for law students to obtain degrees.

“The more difficult question is whether two years is (sufficient) to educate future lawyers how to think like lawyers, have the skills of lawyers, and have the professional values and ethics that lawyers should have,” Dean and Professor of Law Joan Howarth said.

Changing the model might jeopardize the college’s accreditation as well, she added.

“Some highly experienced students could benefit from such a program, but most law students need and want more time for a variety of legal work experiences as law students, and the time to develop not just the knowledge of a lawyer, but the professional identity as well.”

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