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Scenario of Legal Education

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During recent school terms, record numbers of students were enrolled in law schools in the U.S. and Canada. In 1975, some 122,492 students crowded the class rooms of U.S. law schools.

Scenario of Legal Education


The task of training so many new lawyers has brought a demand for more lawyers who can teach. Law professors or associate professors are generally lawyers who were themselves top students in law schools. As students, most of them wrote for law school publications called "law reviews," these journals contain articles about timely legal issues and comments on recent court decisions. It is an honor to be chosen for the law review staff or to be an editor. Many law professors also belong to the Order of the Coif, an honorary scholastic society, whose members are chosen on the basis of superior grades.

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Law review experience and membership in Coif are impressive honors. They are helpful in securing almost any legal position.

Law teachers often have a Master of Laws (LL.M.) or other advanced law degrees. (Most law graduates are now awarded the degree of Juris Doctor [J.D.]. In the past, the Bachelor of Laws degree [LL.B.] was most often conferred.) Some professors have practiced law for sometime before turning to teaching. At many law schools, a number of practicing lawyers are part-time professors. Often, they teach special subjects, such as taxation, handling perhaps one course each term.

Law schools are headed by deans who, most often, have been law professors. They are assisted by associate deans who are responsible for admission of students, placement of students, and so on. Associates handle some classes but do not carry a full teaching load. Many professors use leave time to serve as visiting professors at other schools. Some take government posts on a temporary basis. Others are employed part-time as consultants.

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The size of the library tells much about the quality of a law school. The librarian is a busy and important member of the staff of any law school. Most law school librarians are lawyers and may have other degrees as well.

In many law schools, a professor or another lawyer manages a legal aid clinic, staffed by law students. The clinic offers legal services to local residents who cannot otherwise afford them. At the same time, the students gain practical experience. Law students may interview clients and prepare documents. However, their work is supervised at all times by the director or other lawyers licensed to practice in that area.

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Bar review instruction

Some lawyers teach courses and prepare special materials designed to help students pass local bar examinations. Local practice, rather than legal theory, is taught in these courses. They are given in all areas. In most states, they are conducted twice a year, for several weeks, prior to the time the bar examinations are given. Lawyers who organize the courses are often assisted by practicing lawyers who serve on a part-time basis.

Legal education and laypersons

In the past decade, many lawyers joined with secondary and elementary school teachers to develop programs to teach young people more about the law. Lawyers write, or edit scores of books, pamphlets, and audio-visual materials used in these classes. The subjects covered range from "Constitutional Rights in Juvenile Court" to "Minors and Contracts." These lawyers believe that many legal problems could be avoided if basic legal rules were better understood by everyone.

Popular writers are also "legal educators." Explaining new laws and lawsuits that make headlines is the task of a growing group of legal journalists. They write newspaper reports and magazine articles about key court decisions and famous trials. They report details about changes in laws and public reaction to them. Every year, more lawyers find jobs as journalists. Legal training is not required for this work, but it is helpful. As court decisions and laws grow more complex, more skill is needed to understand and explain them.

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