Legal Education In The US




Legal Education In The US


There is no undergraduate law degree in the United States; thus, students cannot
expect to study law without first completing an undergraduate degree. Basic
admissions requirements for American law schools are a Bachelor\'s degree in any
field and the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The American law degree is
called the Juris Doctor (JD) and usually requires three years of study. The JD
program involves courses in American common and statute law as well as
international and business law. Overseas students who are considering an
American JD should note that this program focuses on preparation for US legal
practice. Undergraduate Preparation for Law School

No particular subject or major field of study is required at the undergraduate
level. Law schools are concerned that applicants have taken courses which
develop communication and analytical skills, and that they have exposed
themselves to a variety of disciplines. The Prelaw Handbook (Association of
American Law Schools) suggests students study some or most of the following
fields but stresses that "well-developed academic ability" is preferable to
intense specialization in any one field: economics, social sciences (sociology,
psychology, anthropology, political science), computers, accounting, and the
sciences. Most pre-law students earn their undergraduate degrees in one of the
social sciences, rounding out their general preparation with courses from other
disciplines. All these subjects may be studied at virtually any university. Law
schools in the US do not require that students complete their Bachelor\'s degree
in America, but because of fierce competition for places in law schools, few
students are accepted from overseas universities. At the beginning of the final
year of undergraduate study, JD applicants should take the LSAT. No knowledge of
law is needed to do well on this exam; it is a standardized test of academic
aptitude in the areas of reading comprehension and analytical and logical
reasoning. Legal Education

Students thinking of law study soon discover that the programs of most law
schools have a great deal in common. The choice of one school over another is
not easily made on the basis of catalog descriptions of the teaching methods,
course offerings, and formal requirements. The similarity is natural, since most
American law schools share the aim of educating lawyers for careers that may
take many paths and that will frequently not be limited to any particular state
or region. Although many lawyers eventually find themselves practicing within
some special branch of the law, American legal education is still fundamentally
an education for generalists. It emphasizes the acquisition of broad and basic
knowledge of law, understanding of the functioning of the legal system, and
development of analytical abilities of a high order. This common emphasis
reflects the conviction that such an education is the best kind of preparation
for the diverse roles that law school graduates occupy in American life and for
the changing nature of the problems any individual lawyer is likely to encounter
over a long career. Within this tradition some schools combine an emphasis on
technical legal knowledge and professional skills with a concern for
illuminating the connections between law and the social forces with which it
interacts. To promote the first, schools provide students with opportunities for
the application of formal knowledge to specific professional tasks, such as
intensive instruction in legal research and writing during the first year,
clinical education, and courses or seminars focusing on concrete problems of
counseling, drafting, and litigation. The second concern is reflected in
curricular offerings that devote substantial attention to relevant aspects of
economics, legal history, philosophy, comparative law, psychiatry, statistics,
and other disciplines. Almost all law schools offer students the opportunity to
work on law reviews that are published by them but are student run and edited.
The law reviews, of varying quality and influence, publish scholarly work as
well as work done by law students. Most schools have a moot court program that
uses simulated cases for training in brief writing and advocacy. Prudent
applicants should consider the quality of a school\'s faculty and student body
and how a school\'s view of legal education and its course offerings relate to
their own interests and future plans (as to course offerings, more is not
necessarily better). Also important are: the character of the school, formal and
informal opportunities for joint degrees if the law school is part of a
university, library facilities, and placement record. All of these elements, in
addition to individual preferences, should be carefully weighed, but no single
factor should ever be considered decisive.

Graduate Legal Education

To find opportunities for in-depth specialization or comparative legal study,
foreign-trained lawyers should look to US graduate law programs. Short-term
training programs