At SELC’s first Legal Apprenticeship Teach-In, over thirty participants discussed how legal apprenticeships will change legal education and the legal profession. Law students, law school graduates, attorneys, and prospective legal apprentices asked the SELC apprentices and company about the nitty gritty details, and made for an enriching conversation. In fact, soon after this discussion, one interested attorney in attendance took on an apprentice of his own!
The influx of attention and questions we’re receiving about legal apprenticeship makes us think that there’s a need for more information about the day-to-day experience of legal apprenticeship. Below are the highlights of the Q&A. If you’re curious about the details, read on!
- Can you accelerate the program if you study more hours than the required weekly minimum?
The rules do not seem to provide for this possibility, so we are doubtful that study can be accelerated. Try contacting the State Bar office to receive an answer specific to your situation.
- Can one combine distance learning, law school, and a legal apprenticeship to make up the total educational requirements?
We looked into Cal. Rules of the State Bar, and according to Rule 4.26 (B)(1), a general applicant for the CA Bar Exam must have “studied law diligently and in good faith for at least four years in a law school registered with the Committee; in a law office; in a judge’s chambers; or by some combination of these methods; Rule 4.28 provides the requirements to receive credit for one year of study by correspondence.” It would be important to clarify with the State Bar that your intended combination of legal apprenticing, distance learning, law school would be permissible.
- Is there a good time of the year to start the apprenticeship, for example, at the start of the fall academic year?
You can begin the apprenticeship whenever you are ready, and if your supervising attorney has practiced law for at least 5 years. If you want to plan around your required exams, two dates to look out for are the administration dates for the first year law student’s exam (also called the “baby bar”) and/or the dates that the bar exam is administered.
- What research experience do you get as a legal apprentice?
Legal research and writing skills are incredibly important, and receiving feedback on your writing is very helpful.. Try to audit a class, take an online course, or sign up for a community college course on this if you can. You can also try finding some online lectures or videos to supplement your law office study.
- Can LOSP graduates practice at the federal level?
- Is there any stigma attached to LOSP lawyers in the courtroom? Is there an indication of this on your bar card, for example?
Probably not. Judges do not necessarily treat you differently if you’ve become an attorney through the LOSP rather than law school. This is not marked on your bar card either, and would require looking up your name in the directory of state attorneys to find where you completed your legal education. (If you’d like to see what the record shows for one formidable attorney who completed the LOSP, search for “Gary Blasi”).
- I work full time right now at a job I find valuable, but it is not directly related to law. Is it a good idea to find a job where I can also do my legal apprenticeship?
If you enjoy your place of employment and find your current work fulfilling, it may be worth asking your employer if s/he would be amenable to some sort of arrangement where you could reduce your hours of work in order to concurrently complete your LOSP at a law office or legal organization. Note that your employer might find your knowledge and skill set a real asset to the organization after (and even during) the LOSP.
- Can I be paid for my time as a legal apprentice?
Our understanding is that the California LOSP rules neither require nor prohibit that LOSP participants be paid. Other states are more specific in either requiring that an apprentice be paid or prohibiting that he apprentice be paid. Be sure to check your state’s laws on the issue.
The actual apprenticeship arrangement can vary widely, and depends on the interests and circumstances of apprentices and supervising attorneys. You should discuss possible arrangements with your supervising attorney. To offer a few real-life work/pay scenarios:
- Marc, an attorney, has two legal apprentices who are paid to work as full staff members of his legal practice.
- Christina has a part-time job that she loves, and is completing a legal apprenticeship at a separate law firm. She finds that her law apprenticeship is lending her a niche specialization that is extremely valuable now and for her future career as a lawyer. At that law firm, she observes attorneys, sits in on client meetings, and generally learns the ropes in that specialized field of law. Sometimes she is assigned client work, and she completes that work for pay as an independent contractor.
- Yassi and Ricardo are paid to work full time for a nonprofit law center. They also apprentice with an attorney at that law firm, and find that some of the work they do for the nonprofit overlaps with their legal education.
- Is it possible to qualify for student loans as a legal apprentice?
This is worth looking into, as we don’t know the answer to this question. Traditional sources of student loan funding may not be open to legal apprentices, however, scholarships and other private funding or stipends may be available to you if you search for them. Overall, taking out student loans is a big burden and something not to be taken lightly.
- What type of work are you allowed to do as a legal apprentice?
It is worth reading this article on the legal and ethical parameters of Nonlawyers and the Unauthorized Practice of Law.
- What’s good about going to law school?
Have you ever heard the phrase “Misery loves company?” In a tough and high-stress environment like law school, most law students find that the support network and camaraderie that emerges among peers in their cohort is the best and most useful thing about learning law in law school. We suggest that, if you choose to do a legal apprenticeship, you look for other apprentices to share experiences and provide mutual support. It is helpful to study with others and may help you to gauge whether you’re on track.