Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1997


Most legal educators reject the premise that the primary mission of the law school is to train law students to practice law. Rather, most law professors claim that their primary function is to teach students to think like lawyers. To many commentators, however, the academic community's antipractice attitude has spawned an unhealthy dichotomy between theory and practice, a division within the academic community, and a chasm between law schools and the practicing bar. Moreover, this dissonance or gap between law school and practice significantly contributes to the fact that most law graduates are substantially unprepared to function as lawyers when they enter the profession. The 1992 MacCrate Report reflects a serious effort by some concerned members of the legal community to grapple with the problems of the legal profession and to narrow the gap between law schools and the profession. The article begins by briefly exploring the reality of this perceived gap between law school and practice. Next, the article describes our study of the DPA's New Attorney Training Program and discusses what we have learned from listening to and observing these new graduates struggle to gain competency. The article also compares the preparedness of new graduates in the Kentucky public defender program with that of new graduates who participated in a live-client clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School or the University of Oklahoma College of Law. In addition, the article focuses on the extent to which the practical skills and fundamental values identified in the MacCrate Report can be readily acquired in a training program such as that offered by the DPA or in a law school clinical program. Based upon the DPA study and our professional experiences, the article concludes that law students and new graduates, if provided a quality, intensive, educational experience, can achieve minimal competence in a reasonable time frame. Finally, the Article examines Barnhizer's proposed changes to legal education and his suggested new institutional approaches. The DPA study and professional experiences convince us that Barnhizer's recommendations are sound and do, in fact, merit serious consideration.



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