In today’s Wall Street Journal, law professor John O. McGinnis and attorney Russell Mangas argue in favor of dismantling the virtual monopoly law schools have on entrance into the legal profession. They would allow undergraduates to begin the study of law and finish with a year-long apprenticeship. Law schools could still offer their high-cost three-year JD programs, of course, but the number of takers would probably decline greatly.
I like their proposal as a first step toward a deregulated legal education system. Graduating from law school is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for competence. The status quo merely raises the cost of entry into the field and protects jobs for a lot of legal academics who don’t actually teach much anyway. (What they do teach is often more in the nature of “bad sociology” than vital professional knowledge, as Prof. Charles Rounds contends in this Pope Center piece.)