Do you think it is possible for individuals to defend themselves in court? Do you think the legal profession attempts to exclude the average person from being able to defend him/herself in order to...

Do you think it is possible for individuals to defend themselves in court? Do you think the legal profession attempts to exclude the average person from being able to defend him/herself in order to maintain control and power over the legal system? Considering that law schools have essentially become a three-year prep for the bar exam, do you think law schools have lost the power to decide their own curriculum?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I think there is some misunderstanding about law school curriculum and the bar examination. In one's first year of law school, one has no choices of coursework, with all five courses mandated by the law school, usually including property, contracts, torts, evidence, and legal research and writing. For the second and third years, the student chooses the courses he or she wishes to take. Some of these areas of law are tested on the bar exam; others are not. Most students take a bar exam preparatory course, either in their last semester or upon graduation, a lengthy course usually involving several nights a week. This is not offered by the school, but by a private entity.

There is an implication in the question that law schools are simply "teaching to the test," rather than preparing people to become proficient attorneys, and that law schools are restricted in the curricula they offer because of this. This is simply not the case. Aside from first year coursework, which is nearly universally the same, law schools have great latitude in their course offerings and use that latitude to keep up with the times and cater to their students' areas of interest. At no time during my law school years was there evidence that the law I was being taught was being taught solely to enable me to pass a bar exam. Similarly, when one wishes to become certified as a teacher, the school does not focus on the certification exam that each teacher must pass in his or her content area(s). The school focuses on preparation for becoming a good teacher.

It is increasingly the case that in K-12 education that schools are teaching to the test, but so far, at least at the graduate level, this is not the case. Nor does the bar exam influence to a very large degree course offerings, with the exception of one's first year.

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