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How to Lower Legal Costs: Make It Easier to Become a Lawyer


An American Bar Association task force has released a report that includes some smart thinking about how to reform the ailing legal education industry. The suggestions include lowering the number classroom hours required for graduation, allowing students to earn educational credit for paid positions, and dropping tenure requirements for law school accreditation. Most important, however, was the task force’s recommendation that the bar be opened to those who have not completed a full degree:

Law schools should work with licensing authorities and the bar association to help produce graduates who can provide basic legal services that don’t require the expertise of someone with a J.D. degree. They should follow the lead of the State of Washington, which is producing “limited-practice lawyers,” who offer services that are affordable to low-income clients and those living in rural areas or small towns. A few other states are also moving in that direction.

Great idea. These are just recommendations of course, but we seriously hope that at least some schools look seriously at putting some of them into practice. As things stand now, there are too many needless obstacles to pursuing a career in law. Why, for instance, force students to go deep in debt to take three years of coursework when one or two would do (as many, including President Obama, have argued).

None of these changes would likely solve the bigger problem of record low application numbers for law schools, but anything that makes pursuing a career in law cheaper and easier might just help—and it would likely benefit the rest of us as well.

[Law scales image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Kevin

    Law should be an undergraduate degree like it is in most of the world.

    • Fat_Man

      and it was in the US before the 1960s. Both my father and grandfather practiced law with undergraduate degrees successfully and for many years. And remember that Abraham Lincoln never went to college at all. He was a better lawyer than even Obama.

  • Corlyss

    The average lawyer income is not what most outside the profession think it is. It’s a lot less. Lower ed costs will help but there has to be a lot less tort litigation to seriously reduce legal costs. Getting tort reform in health care is an important key to reducing the number of CYA tests that doctors now require routinely simply to forestall LOSING (not filing!) tort cases that are rife in health care.

  • DirtyJobsGuy

    How about making an actual pre-law major worth while where the undergraduate takes a good chunk of first year law courses. Such a B.A. would be valuable in itself to any business. Then the law school would be around 2 years or so. After all a science major is useful at the B.S. level and this leads directly into graduate school if required.

    • Corlyss

      Seems reasonable to me. Those 1st year courses are not that hard to grasp. There used to be an undergrad course load called “pre-law.” What exactly it consisted of, I don’t know. I went to law school 17 yrs after I graduated college. It took me that long to talk myself into classes 4 and sometimes 5 nights a week, after my day job.

  • Notjack

    I’ve got an MLIS. 45 masters level credits. (40K in tuition.) So if it takes two years to train a librarian, it has to take three to train a lawyer, right?

    Credentialing is part of the problem.

  • Notjack

    And you have to have an MLIS to BE a librarian.

  • Andrew Allison

    Don’t we have more than enough lawyers already? On a more serious note, VM has been reporting for some time now the the profession offers very limited prospects as IT replaces many of the.

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