Skip law school and join the real world

Be a lawyer to serve your community, not your debt.

Opinions editor Zurich Lewis suggests avoiding law school when considering post-grad plans. | Courtesy of

Zurich Lewis, Writer

As the semester’s end draws ever closer, many of us have already decided the next step in our careers, with most choosing graduate schooling. American culture has taught us that is the next logical step. However, for those aspiring to practice the law, there remains another obscure option our ancestors, centuries before, have used — apprenticeship. Instead of following the track taken by most lawyers-to-be, a few students in our nation have an attorney or a judge as an official mentor for their studies in the law. Only a handful of states have some form of this “Law Office Study Program” including California, Washington, Vermont and Virginia, with New York and Maine requiring a combination of formal schooling and apprenticeship.

For the vast majority of students, three years of law school is obscenely expensive, no matter the tier of the school. Very few can pay the cost without taking out loans which nag the student, a minimum, for over a decade. Because of the exorbitant cost of law school, newly-minted lawyers are forced to pursue only the highest paying firms and working obscene amounts of soul-wrenching overtime, away from their families, just to pay the debt. Signing up for the LOSP breaks those chains and allows you, as a lawyer, to have the freedom to take cases that fulfill your passions to help the causes near and dear to your heart.

While there are some drawbacks to foregoing formal schooling, such as a lack of an alumni network and a smaller chance of being hired for academic and judicial positions, the benefits far outweigh them. Among the benefits include studying right in your own community without traveling abroad for a school. As a lawyer, you can serve the community where you grew up through a full-time job your mentor will likely offer you at the end of your studies, even if you do not pass the State Bar Examination. With only an 18 hour-a-week commitment and monthly testing, according to California law, the flexible scheduling and learning options allow you to study at your own pace thus accommodating any familial or work obligations. By reading and helping practice the law firsthand, you will become a more capable practitioner thus lowering the steep learning curve after finally passing the Bar. While all that may be in the distant future, should you choose this path, the most immediate benefit to you as a graduating senior is this — no LSATs are required. Yes, that means you do not have to stress out about taking tests, filling out applications, writing essays or researching the best school for you financially and personally. Just find a lawyer willing to sponsor you and prepare for the next four years. In California, if you are extremely motivated and have a lawyer ready, you can even start while you are a junior in college.

Remember, most of the burden will land on you, the motivated student, to stay on top of the self-designed course. The supervising attorney should not be holding your hand through the process as they still have their own work. If lecture settings and cutthroat academic competition are not your cup of tea and you have a passion for a cause, then consider enrolling in an LOSP. If you do not have a personal connection with any lawyer, start looking at legal organizations, such as the National Lawyers Guild, that offer connections to practicing attorneys. Visit for a great resource to learn more about the apprenticeship movement.

With law schools losing enrollment, thus having underfunded programs, and a weak job market which cannot guarantee a paying job for your massive loan, it is too dangerous to risk taking this harrowing path. Join me on the road less travelled and learn the law like Abraham Lincoln.

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