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Report: Law School Should Be More Like Medical School

BOSTON (CBS) - To remedy the crippling problem of underemployed young lawyers, law schools should become more like medical schools, complete with legal residency programs that teach practical skills, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Bar Association.

The MBA's 32-page report, "Law, the Economy and Underemployment," was created by the organization's Task Force on Law Schools, a group of 14 lawyers who took six months to study the growing issue of underemployment among lawyers, and how law schools contribute to that problem.

"In Massachusetts, we are a relatively small state that has nine law schools. When you start to realize the sheer number of lawyers who are flooding into the job market ... you say something's got to change," said Eric Parker of Boston-based Parker Scheer LLP, who is co-chair of the task force.

To identify the causes of legal underemployment, the report examines the medical and dental school models, which focus on practical training, something that law schools have increasingly been accused of lacking during the past several years.

In a tough economy, clients have increasingly refused to pay for inexperienced lawyers.

"It's no wonder that when physicians and dentists graduate, they're ready to earn," said Parker.

"They have marketable skills that people want to pay for. By contrast we found that law graduates come out with a generic exposure to legal theory and lack the experience and practical training that converts into a marketable skill."

The report concludes that the third year of law school should look different than it does now, with more emphasis on practical training: "The task force recommends that the MBA encourage Bay State law schools to reinvent the third year so as to provide greater opportunities for law students to gain practical legal experience and expand opportunities to hone their legal writing skills, beyond that offered through traditional first year legal writing programs," the report reads.

Lisa van der Pool of the Boston Business Journal can be seen weekdays at 6 a.m. on WBZ-TV.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter at @lvanderpool.

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