Pre-law students want legal education to change

The vast majority of prospective law students — 79 percent — believe law schools need to make changes to better prepare students to practice in the current employment market, according to a survey by Kaplan Test Prep.

“We think these results are showing students are indeed being much more introspective about their decision to go,” said Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of pre-law programs. “They’re making the decision to go to law school very purposefully and deliberately after doing the research, and students are recognizing, ‘listen, I want to go to law school but once I get there it’s got to be different than what the kids that went five years ago did.’”

Thomas said the call for change in legal education is being answered, and many law schools are instituting programming that involves more hands-on legal experience.

“We know for a fact that law schools have been making significant changes to their curriculum now in anticipation for this past years’ incoming class and this upcoming years’ incoming class, adding new critical practice opportunities, experiential learning opportunities, etc.,” he said.

The survey also shows that more students are considering non-traditional employment — 56 percent plan to use their future law school degree in a non-traditional legal field. That is up from 50 percent in February.

“This is a continual evolution where we’re seeing greater and greater and greater numbers of students who are thinking that big law private practice is not necessarily the right fit for them from the get-go,” Thomas said.

Sixty-eight percent of pre-law students also favor mandatory pro-bono work, similar to the New York State Bar rule which requires every law school graduate to complete 50 hours of pro bono work before being admitted to the bar. New York is currently the only state with such a requirement, although California and New Jersey are considering similar programs.

Kaplan surveyed 750 students who recently took a LSAT Kaplan Prep Course. The online survey was conducted in June 2013. Kaplan, which routinely surveys pre-law students, offered the surveys to help pre-law students understand the challenging landscape that law students face.