Benefits of Legal Apprenticeships

Below:
Benefits for Apprentices
Benefits for Supervising Attorneys
Benefits for the Legal Profession and the World
Disadvantages of Apprenticeship
Reasons You Might Want to Go to Law School Instead

Benefits for Apprentices

  • Apprentices will gain years of legal practice experience and skills prior to becoming an attorney, and, as a result, could potentially be more competent than a new law school graduate at providing client representation.
  • No crushing debt; the apprentice may even earn and save money during the period of study.
  • No LSAT or law school application process, which can be costly, time consuming, and must generally commence a year before law school even begins.
  • Learning at apprentice’s own pace, in a way that best fits an apprentice’s learning style and needs, without the stressful and competitive environment of law school.
  • Ability to study law in the same jurisdiction in which the aspiring lawyer plans to eventually practice; many law student leave their communities and fail to return after law school.
  • For apprentices who are already engaged in important work or rewarding jobs, the apprenticeship process, unlike most law schools, does not require that the apprentice leave that work or put it on hold.
  • Potential for long-term employment and/or partnership with the supervising attorney.
  • Apprentices will gain firsthand experience with the inner workings of a law practice, which will empower the apprentice to create their own law practice.
  • During the term of study, apprentices, likely more so than the average law school graduate, may have built a significant number of connections to future clients, mentors, colleagues, and other professionals who will be helpful in their practice of the law.


Benefits for Supervising Attorneys

  • Teaching the law to apprentices will improve an attorney’s skills in explaining complex legal topics, which will improve client counseling skills and an attorney’s own understanding of the law.
  • Teaching the law will help an attorney to revisit legal questions and topics that the attorney may have forgotten or begun to take for granted. As an added benefit, the attorney will revisit the material with the eyes of an experienced practitioner, which gives new context to the material.
  • Apprentices may bring new skills and/or cultural and linguistic competencies to an attorney’s practice.
  • Cultivating particular areas of expertise in apprentices could have great benefit to the attorney’s practice and allow the attorney to serve a greater number or more diverse group of clients.
  • The attorney will potentially enjoy the company of and will likely find joy in helping an apprentice to develop their skills and knowledge.
  • Apprentices will be able to closely observe the work of the attorney, and the attorney will likely grow and mature in response to feedback and input offered by apprentices.
  • The attorney will end up re-learning bar exam topics along with the apprentices, which will be helpful in the event that the attorney wants to take a bar exam in another state.
  • For reasons that are hard to prove or explain, it’s just fun and deeply satisfying to supervise apprentices.


Benefits for the Legal Profession and the World

  • Apprenticing makes the legal profession more accessible to people of limited financial means.  This will increase diversity in the legal profession.
  • Apprenticing can increase the number of attorneys in rural areas and underserved communities, since the apprentices will not be forced to leave their communities in order to study the law.
  • Attorneys who do not have crushing debt will have much greater flexibility to offer affordable rates, offer pro bono services, explore innovative forms of practice, and serve the vast number of people in society who currently have little or no access to appropriate or affordable legal services.
  • The growth of the legal apprenticeship movement will likely result in a diversification of the methods and materials of legal education.


Disadvantages of Apprenticeship

  • Inability to become a certified lawyer in most other states may limit the mobility of attorneys trained through an apprenticeship. (However, an attorney certified in California could still live elsewhere and serve California-based clients, for example, particularly in non-litigation matters.)
  • Lack of prestige associated with having a JD could narrow the range of available job opportunities, particularly in academia and the judiciary. (Conversely, however, apprentices might have a edge over recent law school graduates with prospective employers who are looking to hire attorneys with significant practical experience.)
  • No access to the support and connections many law school graduates receive through their alumni community (although this could change if there is a national network of legal apprentices).
  • No direct access to a community of other apprentices (unless a network is formed).
  • No free, direct, private access to Lexis and Westlaw during period of study, and limited access to the full range of resources available in law school libraries.


Reasons You Might Want to Go to Law School Instead

  • You are the type of person who needs a structured curriculum, and you’d find it hard to motivate yourself if you had a largely self-directed learning program
  • You learn well by listening to lectures
  • You enjoy the social connections commonly created in a school environment
  • You like the academic side of law study and enjoy highly intellectual arguments
  • You feel you need to the prestige associated with a JD
  • You’d like to eventually work in a big law firm or teach in a law school