University of Denver

The Evolution of Legal Education

IAALS Intern

The Denver Bar Association's October edition of The Docket features a brief history of the American legal education system and mentions Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers' current efforts "to advance legal education and raise standards of competence and professionalism."

The Docket discusses how legal education was originally based on a system of clerkships and apprenticeships until the end of the 19th century when it was replaced by a system of formalized legal education and training, thought to provide a more standardized and rigorous foundation for law students. This formalized system eventually evolved into what is now commonly known and used as the case system, which relies on the Socratic method to teach case law.

However, with the reliance on the formalized case system of legal education, some critics worried that law students were losing practical skills that apprenticeships provided. Recognizing the need to balance the benefits of both legal education systems, many schools now work to add clinics, externships, and other hands-on work experience to their programs. The article references the work of Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers to promote this goal.