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There are hundreds of law schools in this country. All of them teach law. We'd even venture a guess that nearly all of them use casebooks. And really, the the quality of instruction doesn't vary that much between the schools, though you'd almost certainly learn more from an Ivy League school than the People's College of Law in Los Angeles or some online dump.
In fact, the main differentiators are cost, geography, and prestige (which means jobs). When schools lack in one of those three categories, or have trouble differentiating themselves from their many peer schools, they do what all businesses do when offering a commodity to a saturated market: adopt marketing gimmicks.
We've been writing about "fixing" law schools, law school demand, and really everything law school-related for some time now. Here are some of the increasingly popular buzzwords that pre-Ls might not know about:
1. Diversified Experiential Learning Courses: "Experiential Learning" is the no-longer-new buzzword in legal education and covers a variety of classes that try to push practical skills over casebook theory. The one problem with these courses is that you have no idea what job you'll desperately accept once you graduate, so a "practicum" on litigation planning might prove to be a complete waste of time. The fetishization of practice-based curriculum has led New York (and possibly California) to adopt experiential learning requirements. See also: practice-ready.
2. Practicums: They're like clinics, but simulated. Ever take one of those terrible classes where you have to work in groups with idiots and other classmates pretend to be uneducated, impoverished clients? Add in law school gunners and there's your practicum.
3. Externship: An alternative to practicums where you stand a far better chance of learning. This is "real world" education where you learn in a court, public agency, or law firm instead of a classroom. These are similar to clinics, as you'll sometimes represent real people, but they are less school-controlled and more like an unpaid actual job.
4. Residency: A concept that doesn't actually exist in legal education, but really, really should. Why? Think about doctors: They do medical school, then go through rotations during residency. They experience a variety of fields before specializing. And they pick up practical skills. Lawyers? We do casebooks. Maybe an externship or clinic. Then, based on no real-world experience whatsoever, we jump out into the world and apply for jobs, professing our life-long desire to be a ____ attorney, even though we haven't the slightest inkling of what ____ law is all about.
5. Accelerated Degree Program: Many, including President Barack Obama, have suggested that law school doesn't need to be three years long. Some schools, in an effort to make it shorter, now offer accelerated degree programs that stuff three years' worth of classes into two years. Good idea? Well, consider this: Most of these programs are year-round, which means you have no time for summer associateships. And because they charge for their summer classes, the tuition usually isn't significantly cheaper either. If an "accelerated" pace sounds stroke-inducing to you, then you may want to just stick to the traditional three-year route.
Got an annoying buzzword that needs to die now, or that 1Ls need to be warned about? Tweet us @FindLawLP.
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