Apprenticeship: An Alternative Route into the Legal World
The legal profession has faced criticism for its lack of social mobility and conservatism. In fact, the traditional path to becoming a lawyer necessitates that students go through rigorous study for nearly a decade and spend extra time taking up bar exam preparatory courses. There may be a way, however, to bypass the long, grueling road to becoming a lawyer: serving as an apprentice in the office of a lawyer or judge.
While it is a less popular route to becoming a lawyer and not a clear substitute for going through formal legal test preparations, an apprenticeship could save an aspiring lawyer thousands of dollars in law school debt. There is, however, a relatively low passing rate: out of the 1,142 bar exam takers since 1996 that were apprentices, only 305 passed the bar exam. What makes an apprenticeship worth the time and trouble, then?
Apprenticeship Allows Students to Multitask and Deliver Results
Serving as an apprentice in the office of a judge means that students can come out of law school debt-free and get a degree while they earn. They have the option to work full-time and study part-time, gaining some practical experience along the way. In fact, some highly influential historical figures — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few — served as apprentices. Abraham Lincoln self-studied law, before he took and passed the Illinois bar exam.
Apprenticeship Offers a Vocational Path
The one clear difference between an apprenticeship and going to law school is that the latter offers a broader scope that helps enrich a student education. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons why the odds are slim for apprentices who make the cut in the bar exam.
Apprenticeship does, however, offer an alternative, vocational path that is different from the structured setup of law school. Other students may thrive on other venues for learning, such as hands-on experience and juggling between different tasks. Furthermore, apprenticeship could help students who want to focus on a specific area of law, such as personal injury or criminal defense.
Apprenticeship helps open up law school to a broader range of people and gives students the opportunity to learn as much as they can about the practice with early exposure. Experience, after all, is a student’s best teacher, and nothing can substitute for the hands-on experience that every apprentice gains.