We would not expect someone to learn how to ride a bike merely by watching someone else ride one. Many law schools, however, seem to accept the notion that students can learn how to practice law without spending significant time engaged in legal work. Indeed, law students often do not even have the benefit of regularly observing law­yers at work or reviewing the documents they prepare, and instead spend considerable time reading appellate opinions.

The demand for law schools to produce "practice-ready" attorneys seemed to peak a few years back when articles abounded about the perceived gap between what students are taught in law school and what lawyers actually do in practice. The changing legal market has resulted in reduced opportunities for graduates to learn on the job, with legal employers now demanding that graduates begin practice needing less training and supervision. To meet these demands, some law schools have made dramatic changes to their curriculums, affording students more opportunities to develop skills and engage in real practice; others have largely maintained the status quo. While resistance to change accounts for some of the present inertia, economic realities and competing priorities have also slowed progress. Indeed, the often costly demand for more practice opportunities comes at a time when many law schools are facing economic challenges as a result of declining applications that have followed persistent graduate unemployment.

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