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Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Does Law School Offer Everything Promised on the Package
I'm inspired here by a recent Kaplan (yep, the test prep folks) survey which highlights the gap between what law students want and what law schools offer. Kaplan notes that the survey included just under 700 LSAT takers who had also used Kaplan's test prep services. Kaplan also surveyed 126 of over 400 ABA accredited law schools. For purposes of discussion, we'll call it a representative sample.
Despite the lore of hyper-competitive law students secretly tearing pages out of one another's textbooks, apparently the majority of law school students hope to learn in a collaborative environment. Most law schools say they offer that.
In contrast to their commitment to collaboration, the majority of students surveyed claim to want schools to place a greater emphasis on individualistic accomplishment. Only about 30% of the schools surveyed promise this approach.
Why the tension here? Litigation involves advocacy, which means that individualist competition is often the key to success. Students pursuing law degrees often enter the field knowing they have the kind of thick skin needed to work in an often-antagonistic profession.
But this may be at odds with the gentle contours of academia. Learning shouldn't be competitive, necessarily. Students are far more likely to gain a well-rounded education with the support of their peers.
Significantly, students want a law education that helps prepare them for practice and the majority of the schools say they offer that. This isn't consistent with the reality of history. Most law schools are heavy on theory, don't teach to a subspecialty, and leave most of the practical training to the firms that hire their graduates.
It's just a survey, but it is certainly food for thought if you're considering law school, particularly in today's very tough legal job market.
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