Thursday, 29 November 2012

Digital Law Student: is law school a cave entire of itself?

A startled law graduate, book in hand, takes his first tentative step out of law school.

I entered law school in September 2006 and exited in December 2011, very much startled and blurry eyed. It was, in all honesty, a traumatising experience. For 5 years I had lived within the sanctuary - or cave - of academia, cut off from the rest of the working world. All I had known was books, the dark and dusty library, more books, lectures, papers and more books. An experience with which I’m sure many of you legal people can relate.

So when I left the intellectual cave of law school and entered the legal labour market I suddenly found out that all the theoretical book learning had essentially made me unemployable. Quite simply: I had no practical real world skills or experience. Yes I had all the theory and knowledge of law (from reading lots of book), but I had no practical knowledge.

I had no experience of drafting, advocacy or of the day to day activities of a lawyer. So after 5 years of learning at law school and a whole lot of debt I found myself essentially unemployable.

This can’t be right can it? You expect to go to university or college and to be made employable. However my experience and that of many others proves this premise wrong.

So this is why I have since been on a written crusade to raise awareness of this law school deficiency and to help law students to properly prepare themselves for the world of practice. To raise awareness of the fact that education and law school has been a dark cave, entire of itself. A cave detached from the real world where it’s inhabitant work and think in intellectual caves.

I’ve written for the Huffington Post UK here, here, here and here on the topic, and also on Defero Law, Ambitious Minds and WORKing for YOUth.

My aim of all this writing? My aim is to encourage policy makers and curriculum setters to create a system of learning that takes law school out of its cave. Bringing law school out into the public sphere to encourage a mix of both academic learning and employer led project learning. This would give the best of both theoretical and practical worlds. Imbuing law students with both the incision needed for a questioning legal mind but also with the social and practical wherewithal needed for a life in practice.

There are a few examples of how law school could be changed and what the future of law school could look like. Namely Greenhorn Legal is one such example which you can see here. These guys headed by Desiree Moore are dedicated to addressing law school’s practical, real world deficiency. For me it’s inspiring to see a team working to up skill and change the way law students approach the world of practice.

Another great example is the e3 Creative Hub at the Belfast Metropolitan College in Northern Ireland - the part of the world where I’m from. These guys are wholly grounded in employer led project learning which allows students to learn the theory and to learn the practice on the job. Their model of learning is based upon the most cutting edge education policy currently exercised in America. You can read more about them here.

It makes entire sense: law school should teach students legal theory and facilitate practical on the job learning. Only then can law students leave school up to pace and ready for the world of work. By doing so law students can gain the skills needed for real world employment and radically boost their employability. It's not an outlandish concept but it is a concept that isn't yet being live out. Certainly it gives food for thought.

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