Earlier bar exam provides job security for law graduates
Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Daniel Webster: each of these men are among the most famous lawyers in American history. In their respective eras, they occupied powerful roles on the world’s stage, laying the foundations for the American legal system. Fast forward to the 21st century, where having an exhaustive liberal arts education accompanied by experience as a law firm apprentice or court clerk are no longer the main qualifications a budding barrister needs to open the doors of their own practice. Each U.S. state had required law students to defer taking the bar exam until after graduation, forcing students to postpone judicial employment opportunities months after obtaining their Juris Doctorates.
However, as of Jan. 1, Arizona students could have a secret weapon: they will be the only freshly-minted J.D.’s available for hire during June while their contemporaries across the country will be waiting on the edge of their seats for exam results through October. The state has made a maverick move by revolutionizing the current law school system, which has undoubtedly played a role in leaving an unfortunate percentage of graduates unemployed in the legal world. Third-year law students usually have professional law-related experience and the knowledge necessary to pass the bar and the Arizona Supreme Court has given students two years to prove that this new method is effective. If the plan really allows students to save money, it could play a pivotal role in solving the student loan debt crisis. It will allow students to hit the ground running after law school if they take the bar early and they might be able to secure their desired employment straight out of law school.
Arizona might have just started the new trend in legal education. You can bet that all eyes in the legal world will be scrutinzing what unravels in the state through 2015.
In a job culture where only 55 percent of law school graduates for the class of 2011 were employed full-time as lawyers nine months after graduation, according to Forbes Magazine, any competitive advantage Arizona law students can get could help secure future employment.
I’m not saying that this option will be beneficial to all law students; it won’t. Some students will want to spend more time in professional school, to specialize in multiple areas or to obtain a joint graduate degree. Others will continue to work their way through school to finance their education and will be unable to balance the proposed new curriculum with their job(s). However, for those who learn better in a hands-on environment, the opportunity to speed up the clock for the big exam day will definitely offer such students more time in the office and courtroom and less time in the lecture hall. In short, they’ll be doing what they came to do.
If the men who shaped the legal tradition of Western civilization learned on the job, a shift toward placing more importance on actual legal experience is definitely good enough for today’s aspiring attorneys.
— Stephanie Zawada is a chemistry and pre-business sophomore. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter via @StephanieZawada.