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Centuries ago, one became an attorney by apprenticing with a practicing lawyer. By watching the lawyer in action, learning the law through research and practical application, and learning the fundamentals of dealing with clients, they then flew from the nest and went on to practice on their own. But somewhere along the way, how to “practice” law has gotten lost in the corporation known as “law school.” Now a Connecticut Bar Association task force believes it has to pick up the slack to make up for law school’s shortcomings. That is not, nor should it ever be, the CBA’s job. The only responsible party for turning out fully functioning lawyers is the law school. Period. There are two primary components to becoming a lawyer; knowledge and application. One without the other is pointless. Today, law schools emphasize knowledge only. Application is left to the employer if one manages to find a position upon graduation. When the application component is left to the employer, implicit in that is the assumption “one must work for another” first, in order to complete their legal education and before they can open up their own practice competently. If I’ve paid upward of $100,000 for a legal education, I want it to be a complete legal education upon graduation. I don’t want to then be mandated to take a post-graduate prep course on lawyering or be suspended. A good law school should teach both knowledge and application of the law. Unfortunately, for most of today’s law students, this is not the norm. Students are paying a premium for the whole pie but getting only half. The pervasive attitude amongst academia is “that’s not our job. We are not technicians. We are academicians.” And quite frankly, true academicians should not teach the reality of working in the trenches if they haven’t been there recently. Therefore, the answer lies not in inappropriate CBA Big Brother-style intervention but with the law schools. Law schools should integrate into their professorial ranks those who are proud of their war wounds obtained in the real legal world. And they should have input into the curriculum as their real world experience plays an important role in the law student’s education. It’s what the students want. And, they are the paying customer. Without them, the law school ceases to exist. Law schools got a wake-up call with the Carnegie Mellon Institute’s blasting of their archaic curriculum. Deans who are progressive and looking toward the future of the legal profession are finally realizing they have a greater obligation to their students. They understand there is a need to go back to the basics, to teach skills along with knowledge in order to go forward into the future. Law firms of one to four attorneys are now home to almost 74 percent of all private practice lawyers in this country. This mandates knowledge on how to operate a legal practice. To preclude teaching students how to function as business people in the practice of law when this is the trend in the legal profession is tantamount to educational malpractice. Education has to change with the times and legal educators need to acknowledge their paying customers. Law schools need to stop concentrating on “placing” their graduates in “jobs” and start helping them to build a career for themselves by equipping them for any eventuality or shift in economic trend. Give students a full education. Educate them in all the options their degree affords. Clinics, internships and externships should be mandatory, not optional. Schools should be establishing centers for solo and small firm practice and providing business education courses as standard fare. Give students a leg up on what they can expect in the real world and let them say they were able to succeed because they got a complete education, the whole pie. If the CBA is allowed to construct this additional hoop for recent graduates to jump through, all it’s succeeded in doing is giving law schools a free pass to continue leaving their graduates unprepared to utilize the law degrees in the real world. Susan Cartier-Liebel is a solo practitioner, an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a business consultant for solo and small firms. Her blog, Build A Solo Practice, is at susancartierliebel.typepad.com. She can be reached at [email protected] Copyright � Susan Cartier-Liebel (2006) All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, transmitted, posted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of Susan Cartier-Liebel.

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