Our DUI & criminal defense law firm has been representing clients in Pinellas County for over thirty years. During that time, we have observed a surprising number of new law schools open for business. Scores of new lawyers have entered the local practice of law. But, that does not mean they are all alike. To the contrary, you are likely to be surprised about changes that have taken place in the legal profession.
In a 2014 article we examined the dilemma of a college graduate in choosing to attend a private or public law school in Florida. Today's article delves into a more serious topic that many commentators warn may be effecting the public's best interest.
Can Your Lawyer Think on Your Feet?
The traditional method of teaching law in the United States for the past 100 years has been the Socratic Method. The general public first became aware of this practice as a result of a best selling 1971 novel entitled the "Paper Chase." The book was turned into a movie and the movie became a television series.
Most lawyers consider the Socratic method of teaching a "right of passage" in their pursuit of a Juris Doctorate degree. This advanced degree is a necessary pre-requite to sit for the state Bar examination. The Socratic method entails having the professor choose a law student in the classroom at random. The student is then required to stand and participate with the teacher in a series of continual probing questions about a legal case. The method of teaching was designed to stimulate critical thinking, draw out ideas and advance public speaking skills. The law student in the "hot seat" literally must "think on his feet," much as he would in a courtroom responding to a judge's inquiries or his opponents arguments. Put simply, learning to think like a lawyer is equally as important as learning the law. See: brief video of law school Socratic teaching.
The Watering Down of a Legal Education?
If you are contemplating retaining the services of a lawyer, it is imperative that you inquire about their background, education and training. You might conclude there has been a "watering down" in the education of some law school graduates.
Consider these new developments in our legal education system:
- Forty-four universities now offer a six year program to achieve both a bachelor and Juris Doctor Degree. The bachelor's degree is awarded after a student concludes his first year of law school. In other words, the first year of law school counts double toward both the undergraduate and post graduate degree. Seven years of education have been summarily shortened to six years.
- U.S. News & World Report has surmised that because of student concerns over tuition and the opportunity cost associated with foregoing a salary for three years (typically required to complete a law degree), there has been an emerging trend to develop accelerated Juris Doctorate programs. As a result, twenty one law schools (including one in Florida) now offer an accelerated two year program to secure a juris doctorate degree. Did your prospective attorney participate in legal studies for two or three years?
- Currently, there are eighty law schools that offer part time programs. These students work during the day and attend law school at night. Balancing a career and raising a family while attending law school can be very challenging. Typically, three hours of homework and preparation are required for each hour of classroom session time. Showing up for an evening class tired or less than fully prepared does not contribute to a valuable learning experience. Valuable hands-on externships, clinics, and summer clerkships are likely unavailable to a part time law student as they would interfere with his obligations to his employer. It is also important to note that there is a lower admissions criteria for part time law students. This means that the lawyer you are considering may not have been qualified to enter study as a full time law student and was forced to attend part time. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately one out of every ten lawyers attended law school on a part time basis.
- Did you know that it is now possible to obtain a law degree by limiting your attendance at law school to only on weekends? That's correct, the American Bar Association has approved weekend study for would be lawyers at various law schools nationwide.
- If you are concerned about a lawyer who only attended law school on weekends, you should be aware that the "watering down" of a legal education has fallen further down that "slippery slope." William Mitchell Law School, located in St. Paul, Minnesota is the first law school to achieve ABA accreditation for their online law degree. After achieving their online degree, William Mitchell Law School graduates are eligible to take the bar exam in all fifty states.
Law schools have varying degrees of success in their preparation of students to become effective advocates. Nevertheless, we believe that the "experimental learning" or short cut methods as described above create a crisis of confidence in a law school's ability to train future effective attorneys. In our opinion, if this is the "new normal" of law school education, it represents a poor method of shaping the legal talent pipeline for the needs of the public.
Selecting the Right Attorney...
Ask Us About Our Education & Experience
The lawyers in our St. Petersburg / Clearwater office obtained a four year undergraduate degree and thereafter attended law school in the traditional and rigorous fashion. It is axiomatic that a good legal education can be key to later success in the courtroom. Our attorneys mastered their effectiveness in making legal arguments through the Socratic method of legal education. They benefited from participation in extra curricular legal activities, trial advocacy competitions and judicial clerkships. Before graduating law school they worked as law clerks in a criminal defense firm and completed clinical internships at the Pinellas County State Attorney's Office. Thereafter, they went on to serve as Pinellas County State Prosecutors. You can feel confident that they possess the skills necessary to provide you with highly effective representation.
The Crisis in Legal Education
Best DUI Lawyer in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas
Best Criminal Defense Attorney St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas
Law Schools Duel For The Worst Bar Passage Rates Ever
How to Find Best Criminal Defense Lawyer Pinellas, St. Petersburg, Clearwater
Many Law School Degrees "Worse than Worthless"
Highest Rated Lawyer, Pinellas, Clearwater, St. Petersburg
Who is Attorney Marc Pelletier?
Who is Attorney Tim Sullivan?
The Law Offices of Russo Pelletier & Sullivan, P.A.
Attorneys at Law
Former State Prosecutors
9721 Executive Center Drive North
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
Call our office to discuss your options
Visit our Comprehensive Criminal Defense website: www.defensehelp.com
Visit our Prescription Drug Defense Website: www.floridaprescriptionfraud.com
Visit our DUI Defense Website for FAQ: www.duistpetersburglawyer.com