Jan 12, 2018 in Law

Evolution of Law Education

The English Period. Formerly, law experts determined for the United States had been trained in England. That is why to be historically objective; the American legal education at the very beginning was admitted to be dependent on the English model of that time. Here, we can review a mode of selection and education of lawyers during the period of the English era. As Stein remarks, "the means of legal education predominating and available at any exact time was dependent on if or not court was in session". Once a session began, the dwelling place, called the Inn, was overcrowded with judges, lawyers and students. The discussions among the students would go on in the Inns for the evenings after the court. This experience was known as the moot court. These exercises were of vital importance for educating persons while the legal literature and organized reports had been under impregnation. The enhancement of the Inns of Court laid the beginning of "priesthood"of the closed society of lawyers. Those were the experienced and advanced students that had selected something new for the community to accept, taking into account, however, both intellectual and potential ability to feed the verifiers. That was a rather subjective approach, at least.

It must be noted that in the English period solicitors and attorneys did not have any organized educational institution. They were recognized as outer barristers to the Inns. There were no requirements for an attorney to have the education or any special skills. Thus, both obtained the legal education through an apprentice method. "By the eighteenth century, the readings and moots had declined, and the students were largely left to their own devices" (Stein 434). Stein has written this; he also has added that, "the only requirement for admission to the bar ... was proof that the student had kept twelve terms by eating the required number of meals". At the later time, students were expected to read the recognized scholars' books, but, in practice, the majority of education had been obtained in courts. No wonder that by the middle of the nineteenth century, a committee of the Parliament had concluded the English educational system to be inferior to American and European.

Early Legal Training. As indicated by Moline (779), the collegiate lectures on law and law schools started in the 1780s. Some aspirants travelled to England to study in the Inns. Even though their influence on coming back had been powerful, they had not much to add to practicing colonial legal activities. For the other willing people to study there were three options. These included: reading a program in the mode of self-study, serving as an assistant at the judicial office, or serving as an apprentice for the established lawyer. According to Moline (780), "The most common method of legal preparation in America was the clerkship system" where the student practiced in theory and practice individually and observed hopefully under supervision. The student was supposed to hold an alphabetically ordered journal with copious notes to comprehend all aspects of law.

The Harvard Law School Era. In the manuscript ofStein, the Harvard initial experience is described in details. Judge Parker of Massachusetts set lectures on broad topics of law regardless of its comprehension and for two years. Regular lectures were given, a small library acquired, examinations given, moot courts and discussions held and dissertations were written by students. It is noteworthy that "Students came and went without any regular times of attendance set by the school, and it was said that the best students left for practicing in attorneys' offices since all that the law school was a glorified law office". It took more twenty years to set lectures in order; and a "classroom method became increasingly based on assigned readings in texts with in-class discussion and commentaries".

Nowadays. Today, most US law schools require a bachelor's degree, a satisfactory undergraduate average grade point, and a satisfactory score for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to be admitted. Other personal factors, as evaluated by the means of essays, short-answer questions, and letters of recommendation, are also important, although the applicants are usually not interviewed. In accordance with the American Bar Association's requirements, most law schools include into their curriculum the Civil Procedure, the Constitutional law, Contracts, the Criminal Law, the Law on Property, TORTs, the Legal Research and Legal Writing. The grade for the entire course at many schools depended upon the results of one or two examinations; this was typically done in an essay form. After the first year of study, students were allowed to choose a field of legal study of their own interest, such as administrative or corporate law, or any other. In order to graduate the student had to pay the tuition, to behave properly, and to have a satisfactory average grade. It is uncommon for a school to admit a candidate coming from another school.


Both the selection criteria and educational patterns for lawyers have changed considerably since colonial times. That was an epoch of an empirical law practice, an embryonic scientific approach (concerning some colonial specifics), a biased selection of applicants, and the primal attempts to set educational standards. The subjective options, however, were based on enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge as well as the attempts and failures being all a part of history of the Law Education.

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