BECOMING A LAWYER WITHOUT NEEDING TO ATTEND LAW SCHOOL
The background of this letter is that there are seven states which permit apprenticeship (working for a lawyer and studying the law) as a road to becoming a lawyer there. The states are Vermont, New York, Washington, Virginia, California, Maine and Wyoming. A few years ago as Massachusetts considered buying an existing law school and making it a public law school, I wrote to a state legislator I have known for years with my suggestion, attaching an excerpt of a 1996 article about apprenticeship in the Boston Globe and my response to it.
The apprenticeship program has two potentially great advantages over the traditional law school. The first is its pragmatic emphasis on learning how to practice law. That benefit, of course, is dependent on how qualified and how willing the mentor is to guide and teach the apprentice. It is also limited to the skills of the particular context within which one finds an apprenticeship. The second is the cost of obtaining the degree. Even if the apprentice must volunteer his or her time, there is no need to pay tuition. Apprenticeships run into some problems, however, when it comes to learning fundamental values of the profession, and to learning about the range and diversity of practice options. Again, the particularity of the setting can be enlarging or limiting. One’s access to a wide legal community, if only through vicarious knowledge, may be limited compared to what, ideally, is available in a law school. “Alternatives to Law School for Those who Want to be a Lawyers”
LETTER TO MASSACHUSETTS STATE LEGISLATOR