Scholarship Amounts Are Soaring

Law studentsUndergraduate Law School?

Law school as an undergraduate degree option? Heresy? Opinion writer, Jesse Berman doesn’t think so. Berman writes in the Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, that an undergraduate law degree is the key to saving the legal profession.
Berman points to the added debt of attending a graduate school as one reason. Berman also uses countries like The Netherlands as an example of a system that awards law degrees to undergraduate students. “At age 22, when most American college graduates are gearing up to take their LSAT with hopes of simply getting accepted to law school, Dutch students are suiting up and entering the professional world of law,” Berman writes.
Berman further suggests that the first year curriculum of many law schools (University of Virginia’s included) is really the only year law students absolutely need. So essentially, students are paying $100,000 for electives. “While these courses might be thought-provoking and helpful for determining a future legal specialization, are they really worth it,” Berman asks.
An undergraduate law degree could be set up like many undergraduate business degrees where students apply to the program during their freshman year of undergrad and spend the next three years going through the program, according to Berman. It’s a novel idea, albeit, with flaws. Tipping the Scales has some ideas why.
The first is obvious. Clients are paying big money for capable lawyers. One of the biggest issues with firms hiring newbie lawyers has been the questioning of capability. Their biggest clients don’t want to pay for lawyers in their late-20s with law degrees. As a result, it’s even more unlikely that they’ll pay for 22 year-olds with an undergraduate degree.
What’s more, it will dilute the profession. Take journalism, for example. Many journalists live in a state of self-deprecation because there is no “standard” for becoming a journalist. A professional degree is not required, nor is a comprehensive exam to become certified. And the professionalism of journalists is constantly being questioned.
Next, there is a lot to be said for the value of life experience. Individuals who have spent a few years in the workforce (especially in a legal-related job) gain valuable life and professional experiences that are helpful in a law classroom and then in early jobs.
The answer to legal education change isn’t switching to undergraduate law degrees. A better idea that could help address the issue is doing what some law schools are already doing; A three-plus-three program, where students are admitted straight into law school after three years of undergrad. However, this still does not solve the issue of life and professional experience.
Source: The Cavalier Daily

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