What Pre-Law Students Want: Kaplan Test Prep Survey Finds That Tomorrow’s Lawyers Favor A Two-Year Law School Model And Want Significant Changes In Legal Education

Facing sustained, strong headwinds on the employment and education landscapes, a new Kaplan Test Prep survey of nearly 1,400 pre-law students finds that tomorrow’s attorneys support a two-year law school program and more clinical experience in the curriculum. Among the findings:
  • A Shorter Law School Model: President Barack Obama has strong support among the pre-law student community for a suggestion he made last summer: that law schools should move to a two-year model from its current three-year model. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed favor a shorter program -- which would potentially save law school students tens of thousands of dollars in tuition. Our take: don’t look for this to happen any time soon. This 58% figure resembles the 63% of recent law school graduates who also answered this way in a Kaplan survey on the issue taken in August 2013.
  • More Clinics: The verdict is nearly unanimous -- 97% of pre-law students say they favor a law school model that incorporates clinical experience, which is designed to make students more practice-ready. While the first year of law school is similarly structured at every law school, featuring courses on the basics of law, the second and third years are largely spent taking electives or participating in other for-credit programs. The good news for students is that according to Kaplan’s 2013 survey of law school admissions officers, 71% of JD programs are introducing more clinical courses and practical training into their curricula.
  • Sense of Purpose: 58% say their primary reason for attending law school is a desire to practice law; 11% say that their primary reason is to make a career change. Other answers include to improve salary potential (7%) and to pursue a career in politics (7%).

“Our survey suggests that pre-law students are paying attention to the current state of legal education and the job market for new lawyers, and recognize the need for big changes that they think will benefit them. This desire for a shake-up puts them on the same page as many in the legal education community, including law school admissions officers and educators,” says Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “It’s also encouraging that pre-law students say that the primary reason they are planning to go to law school is to actually practice law. While the JD is a versatile degree and there are many career paths possible with it, it’s smart to make practicing law your primary focus.”

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