Law Students: Want Practical Experience? Well, Get Some!
In one of my classes this past semester, we discussed the pros and cons of changing the current focus of legal education to a more practical application of the law. Arguments favoring this change include a desire for students to be “practice-ready” upon completion of law school—which would apparently lead to cheaper legal services and happier clients. All of this sounds good, but one thing that was not mentioned was the need for law students to be accountable for their own success (or failure).
I do not want to ream my “generation” but the majority of us need a reality check. We generally come from middle-class, stable families and have had opportunities spoon-fed to us since we were children. My generation has this surreal workforce expectation that we somehow “deserve” our dream job the day after graduation—all because we now have a degree.
In today’s market, there is no certainty. It takes starting at the bottom and slowly working your way to the top. I stopped feeling entitled to a job the day I graduated from undergrad. I had zero job offers, zero job experience, and was clueless. My parents had always advocated good grades over job experience. It was after graduation when I realized I had to get experience, no matter what it was. A job would teach me things that no school could—not even one that provided “practical” experience.
Job experience—actual experience—is crucial to growth. It helps bridge the gap between theory and practice. Many law schools are providing more opportunities for students to gain practical experience; however, a school cannot tailor its curriculum to each student’s individual’s needs and desires. For example, a law school should not have to teach a student how to file a motion; most legal jobs do not require this skill. And I personally have no desire to pay tuition to learn such a skill. If I ever need it, I will figure it out.