The road to hell is paved with good intentions and that proverb might be applied in principle to a well-meaning press release issued by the law firm Day Pitney announcing their launch of a “summer apprentice program” to replace the firm’s previous “summer associate program” (hat tip to Debra Cassens Weiss at the ABA Journal).
This virtual misnomer appears to us to perhaps be an outgrowth of the current recession in which the value of young law graduates and law student summer associates has been reduced primarily by the flawed financial policies of law firm partners. As usual, it is the people down the responsibility ladder – as always – who have to bear the brunt of an economic downturn which they had no hand in creating.
We can not speak for others, but the term “Summer Apprentice” for law students doing on-the-job legal training appears to us to be an ill-chosen dysphemism when compared to the previous perhaps euphemistic “Summer Associate” label, especially since a “legal apprentice” or “law apprentice” in the English-speaking world has traditionally been a title reserved for persons who embark on a course of legal study without going to law school and who are as a result of that apprenticeship entitled to take a bar exam without having a law school background.
Nostalgically bringing back the terminology and ideology of an apprenticeship system is in our view a crass step backward in legal education and training since it denigrates that which the best law schools attempt to train in their students – the capacity for critical thinking, a skill so badly lacking in modern society, especially in modern America – and replaces that system with an older and less effective learning system, prevalent in lower quality law schools – where rote learning of laws and procedures is preferred to the type of critical thinking which is required in the top legal echelons of any successful institution or nation.
See our posting at Great Law Schools – “Advice” for Law Students – Socratic Method.
When I go to my family lawyer I am not interested that he can recite a specific case or paragraph accurately from memory. That kind of rote learning is the primary purpose of bar exams and similar examinations and it is a complete waste of time – anyone can look up laws and judicial decisions in the nearest law library. What a lawyer’s client requires is someone who can apply a given legal paragraph or case effectively within the legal system – and that is a different kettle of fish. You do not learn that as an apprentice and that is why law schools were created in the first place. Practicing law is not the same as shoemaking – the master/apprentice concept fails.
Although it is of course true that summer associate jobs do in fact give law students practical exposure and training in the law on the legal front lines, this is no reason to call them apprentices, and what a summer associate does in a large law firm is a far cry from the cheap labor supply represented by legal apprentice systems elsewhere around the world.
For example, here in Germany, a legal apprentice is a “Referendar”, and law school graduates have to fulfill a mandatory two-year period of practical State training after their law school studies called a “Referendariat”. As the Wikipedia writes under jurist:
“In some of Continental Europe, anyone with a degree in law (e.g., a bachelor or master of laws) may be called a jurist. Such jurists can practice law as employees hired by law firms or legal departments of other business entities. Being a jurist does not necessarily mean that one has the privileges usually attributed to “attorney” or “solicitor”. In Germany e.g. you do a first Examination (“Erstes Staatsexamen”) after four years of University studies. If you pass the Examination you are a “Referendar jur.” (“Jurist”). With this you can apply to a two year post-university education called “Referendariat”. If you do this, you are employed by a German State Government and work in several positions; normally: judge assistant, assistant to an public prosecutor, civil servant and assistant to a “barrister”. Then you have to do a second Examination (“Zweites Staatsexamen”). If you pass it, you are a (“Assessor jur.”) (“Volljurist”). With this title, you can apply as a judge, public prosecutor, civil servant or you can work as a Rechtsanwalt (“barrister”). Independently from this, some German universities offer LLM studies, but they do not give anyone the qualification to apply for one of the jobs mentioned above. Alternatively, the LLM degree taken in the US would provide a German qualified lawyer with the opportunity to become a US Attorney.“
Moreover, in spite of the fact that German students can study law straight out of high school – a college degree is required for law study in the United States – for anyone in Germany interested in an academic career or law at a higher level of “higher learning”, by the time a jurist gets his Dr. iur. in Germany (roughly comparable as a doctoral degree to a J.D.), can be in his 30’s and – to my knowledge – it is perhaps a rare law professor in Germany who is hired the younger side of 40. When I graduated from Stanford Law School I was 24 years old and the average age of the graduating class was 28.
The J.D. degree (Juris Doctor viz. Doctor of Jurisprudence), by the way, was developed in the United States as a practical solution to the elevated university education of jurists, a solution which has never been adopted fully in Europe, much to the detriment of legal education in European jurisprudence, which is simply inferior to that practiced in the U.S.A. As the Wikipedia writes under Juris Doctor:
“… Christopher Columbus Langdell, who served as dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895, dedicated his life to reforming legal education in the United States. The historian Robert Stevens wrote that “it was Langdell’s goal to turn the legal profession into a university educated one — and not at the undergraduate level, but through a three-year post baccalaureate degree.” This graduate level study would allow the intensive legal training that Langdell had developed, known as the case method (a method of studying landmark cases) and the socratic method (a method of examining students on the reasoning of the court in the cases studied). Therefore, a graduate high level law degree was established, the Juris Doctor, implementing the case and socratic methods as its didactic approach. The J.D. was established as the equivalent of the J.U.D. [Juris Utriusque Doctor] in Germany to reflect the advanced study required to be an effective lawyer. It was not a conversion of the LL.B. degree, though it did replace it at those law schools that initially followed the Oxford tradition and which offered the LL.B. as a second bachelor’s degree. [material in brackets added by LawPundit]
Harvard was first to offer the new doctorate. The University of Chicago Law School was the first to offer it exclusively (i.e., the first to not offer both the J.D. and the LL.B.). While approval was still pending at Harvard, the degree was introduced at many other law schools in the United States.“
The result of the highly antiquated and totally inefficient German legal educational system – which is backwardly similar to the same system that the USA reformed over 100 years ago – is that many a jurist is already well along in age and “burned out” from endless years of totally superfluous “training” before he ever starts to practice law or do serious academic research, so that many a jurist’s potentially best years are spent doing junk work or serving as a supply of cheap labor for the legal system.
The current virtually feudal “apprentice-based” German legal system is thus no model for other countries in terms of its legal education or training. It is totally outdated and inadequate for modern law. In What Are Law Schools For?, edited by P. B. H. Birks, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 91, Hans Leser writes via Questia.com about “Legal Education in Germany”, inter alia:
“… For the last two centuries the State, not the courts or professional organisations, has monopolised legal education in Germany….
The result of all of this is that German students spend too long at university, on average five to six years including examinations, notwithstanding that legislation prescribes a four year course of study. All current reform proposals seek to address this issue.“
Given the above discussion, applying the apprentice label to law school students in summer jobs at law firms is thus simply wrong as a matter of terminology and Day Pitney would be well-advised to reconsider a new name for its program rather than letting it run under this misleading and indeed, backward-oriented, terminology.
You can train seals … in an apprentice-type system.
Lawyers have to be educated.
See also generally, Albert James Harno, Legal Education in the United States.