I've been wondering this for a while... why don't state bars just revert to the standard of allowing admission on the basis of apprenticeship and independent study of the bar? Law school wasn't always a requisite.
People say the legal market is flooded... it really isn't, not at the lowest levels. What its flooded with is debt laden law graduates looking for the same type of jobs. But plenty of people make fine livings as solo lawyers. It's just hard do that with over $100k in law school debt. So why not just afford people the option to forgo law school for an apprenticeship with a small law firm and independent study for the bar.
IMHO, these people would be far more prepared for solo legal work than law school graduates, and it's not like they'd further saturate the market because I doubt they'd be compete for law firms jobs or corporate work. What it would do is give an affordable option to those people who genuinely are ok with a $40k job doing solo work but don't want to spend 3 years and thousands on law school.
And what does law school teach you that you can't teach yourself? "Ethics"?
I think it's time to bring back apprenticeships in our economy. Maybe it'd actually help put pressure on the lesser law schools to cut tuition and class size.
*Edit: To be clear, I don't think you'd see an explosion of people taking the bar exam. I think you'd see many people at 4th or even 3rd tiers opting for this route instead.
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Virginia, California, Washington, and Vermont all allow an apprentice to take the bar after 3 to 4 years of registered legal work. New York, Wyoming, and Maine, also allow non grads to take the bar after some combination of law classes and office work.
California: Students who register for the four-year law school alternative must have completed at least two years of college or prove the intellectual equivalent. Law readers must pass a "baby bar" exam after the first year of study in a law office or judge's chambers. There are currently no more than 25 law readers in the state.
Maine: The bar allows students to apprentice in law offices instead of attending their third year of law school. However, it's been at least 15 years since anyone applied to the bar under that provision, according to the Maine Board of Bar Examiners.
Mississippi: Law office students who registered in the state before July 1, 1979, may take the Mississippi bar. The last person to do so passed in 1998.
New York: Law readers must have completed at least one year of law school and be in good standing. They must study law for at least four years. In the last five years, only 20 law readers have passed the New York bar out of 99 attempts.
Vermont: Lets students take the bar after four years of office study. The state requires law readers to have completed at least three quarters of an undergraduate degree. There are currently about 50 registered law readers in the state. In the last five years, there have been 53 law reader attempts at the Vermont bar, and 24 have passed, or about 45 percent.
Virginia: Law readers must have a bachelor's degree, and they can't be paid for work at the law firm that's training them. The program is three years long, and only 12 people succeeded out of the 54 law-reader attempts at the bar exam in the last five years -- a pass rate of 22 percent. There are currently about 19 registered law readers.
Washington: Participants in the four-year program must have an undergraduate degree. Washington is the only state where law clerks outperform law school graduates on the bar. Since the program was revamped in 1984, 94 law readers have passed the bar out of 110 attempts. That's an 85 percent pass rate, compared to an overall pass rate of 72. There are currently about 50 law readers.
Wyoming: The bar requires three years of law study, at least one of which must be in a law school. The last time anyone was admitted to the Wyoming bar without a law degree was in 1975.
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