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An LL.M. for Fresh Graduates?

So law firms are asking some new hires to defer going on the payroll for a year, and often are paying a stipend for the year. Law firms have also long been complaining that their incoming associates don't have enough skills training.

UCLA's answer: An LL.M. for recent graduates, which is supposed to largely focus on skills training. (The LL.M. isn't limited to students whose jobs have been deferred for a year, but I expect that they will make up a big chunk of the applicants.) Apparently we're the first school to do something like that. Will people snap it up or shun it en masse? We'll know in a few months. One possible problem is that even people who could really profit from the degree might just be sick and tired of school; but it strikes me as potentially quite useful to many students.

I should note that I wasn't at all involved in planning this project. In fact, today is the first time I heard of it (I was out of town during the faculty meeting when it was approved, and I wasn't on the relevant planning committee). Naturally, as a UCLA guy I'd love to see it succeed, and I suspect it will, but check back this Fall.

CMH:
Excellent idea, I hope it works out for the students who participate and the school, and that the program isn't discontinued if (when?) this mass trend of delayed starts and the like ends.

It does remain a sad commentary on the disconnect between legal education and legal practice, though, that this sort of program isn't more widespread (at least that I'm aware of).
4.16.2009 5:38pm
merevaudevillian:
Comments on Above the Law are generally shunning it as (a) a means to hide unemployed graduates in the US News employment figures, (b) a way of forcing an extra $50,000 in loans for a degree that's simply not worth much, (c) forcing students to pay for what they could otherwise do, via an unpaid internship, for free, and (d) a concession that law school's three years are impractical and that a fourth year of practical education is required.

I confess that I am, personally, a bit reluctant to see much value in it, but I eagerly await others' comments.
4.16.2009 5:44pm
KJJackson:
This may be a silly question, but if there has long been discontent among law firms regarding the quality of graduates, why aren't law schools changing their programs to be more relevant. It seems like adding insult to injury to say to a new graduate: "Sorry, your expensive education doesn't prepare you to practice law, but if you'll pay for this additional education, then we'll teach you what you really need to know to practice."
4.16.2009 5:45pm
rick.felt:
The only thing that recent law school grads are qualified to do is write useless memos full of weasel-words. Good for UCLA for trying to change that.

Of course, I don't know if the skills that lawyers - even young lawyers - need are teachable in a classroom setting. At some point you have to get out there and do it.
4.16.2009 5:51pm
wm13:
Actually, rick.felt, in my experience, recent law graduates have to be trained to put the weasel words in their memos. Most of them are too cocksure about the quality of their analytic skills.
4.16.2009 6:01pm
RPT (mail):
Sounds like a good idea if priced right. Back in the five figure starting salary era, the time I spent with David Binder, Paul Boland and Paul Bergman in the UCLA Clinical Program were the most practical and useful of the three years (no offense to Mel Nimmer, Steve Yeazell, Bill Warren, Susan Prager, et al).
4.16.2009 6:03pm
David Walser:
From the I'm-Sure-I'm-Missing-Something Department: Is UCLA's program really all that unusual? The reason I ask is because the school I attended offered a joint J.D./LL.M. (in tax) program; I recall other schools had similar programs. If it's not unusual to offer an LL.M to be awarded at the same time as the J.D., why would it be unusual to open an LL.M. program for newly minted J.D.'s?
4.16.2009 6:05pm
NaG (mail):
What does "skills training" entail? After reading the UCLA webpage, I still have no idea what the value-add is.

I would suggest a series of courses on how to run a solo law firm ethically and successfully, including training on how to build a new practice, screen potential clients, and avoid common malpractice pitfalls. I would include training for the California (or other state) bar exam. I would have a class on "writing a memo that a partner/judge wants to read," with Simon Cowell-like criticism done in front of the whole class.
4.16.2009 6:06pm
Calm Mentor:

why aren't law schools changing their programs to be more relevant. It seems like adding insult to injury to say to a new graduate: "Sorry, your expensive education doesn't prepare you to practice law, but if you'll pay for this additional education, then we'll teach you what you really need to know to practice."


Law schools aren't changing to be more relevant because many professors have never practiced law. They have no idea how to teach what students need to know to practice. This is not to discount the fact that they may be hardworking and brilliant. But they have no idea how to practice law.

I know, I know, my veterinarian has never been a dog. But we still have a system based on ensuring our best and brightest never have to be practicing lawyers.
4.16.2009 6:20pm
rick.felt:
Actually, rick.felt, in my experience, recent law graduates have to be trained to put the weasel words in their memos. Most of them are too cocksure about the quality of their analytic skills.

Heh, not working for me they won't. I want lawyers who will take a gul-durned stance on an issue. I already know that the issue that the issue I asked them to research has good arguments on both sides, and that it's a close call. I need an answer, not "it could go either way," which I already know.

They'll also be punched in the testicles/uterus if they ever try using the word "clearly" in any document.

Anyway, from what I have experienced, the way to succeed on law school exams is to issue-spot, then do a lot of "on one hand, on the other hand," blathering, and ultimately come out very weakly one way or the other. That's useless to me.
4.16.2009 6:23pm
Mikeyes (mail):

One possible problem is that even people who could really profit from the degree might just be sick and tired of school; but it strikes me as potentially quite useful to many students.


As a graduate of Medical School, my first reaction is incredulity about the "sick and tired" aspect, but I realize that getting a law degree is not a guarantee to make money the way an MD/DO is (or used to be) and that there may be no added value if only three years are needed to get to the Bar exam. (My thought is, "Only three years? MD/DOs go an average of eight years post college to get all the training they need.")

But then I have a completely different perspective and can't understand why a professional school doesn't teach the profession either.

As a practical matter, if the LL.M. means that you will have a higher paying job and it means that you have some practical skill, I say go for it. If not, then let someone else pay for it or get paid to do it the way medical residents are.
4.16.2009 7:01pm
James Eaves-Johnson (mail) (www):
I almost went to a third tier rather than first tier law school because of this. A cheaper and easier education that prepares you for the bar and law practice vs. a harder education that prepares you to do little other than write appellate briefs should be an easy decision. In the end, I made the choice that makes little sense.
4.16.2009 7:32pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Practical skills are important for aspiring lawyers to learn, but they should be taught as part of the J.D. program. They don't seem worthy of a degree unto themselves -- especially not an LL.M., which is ostensibly higher than a J.D.

(How is a master's degree in ostensibly higher than a doctorate? Remember that what we now call a J.D. used to be an LL.B. It was a second bachelor's degree rather than a professional doctorate. Only the name of the degree has changed; the curriculum and requirements did not undergo any radical shift at the time. An LL.M. was the next (optional) step beyond an LL.B. and was thus a higher degree. That remains true even after the LL.B. was renamed J.D.)
4.16.2009 7:36pm
DDG:
Will it be taught by law professors who know next to nothing about being a lawyer, like the rest of law school?

Most first year associates are worse than useless (thanks LawProfs!).
4.16.2009 7:39pm
TerrencePhilip:
The person who would find this most advantageous is someone who wanted to practice in LA or California generally, and who got their JD at a law school ranked lower than UCLA (and perhaps had not gone to law school in California). The UCLA degree would be a nice feather in their cap.

If you're a UCLA grad, or graduate of some other top law school, I don't see this making much sense for you, though knowing law students I'm sure that another year of monopoly-money student loans will be attractive.

An LLM is not a bad idea, I've known a few people who got them while searching for jobs.
4.16.2009 7:55pm
Jer:
Would this allow high-ranking graduates of third-tier schools to participate in UCLA's OCI program?

If BigLaw employers aren't willing to hire high-rank T3 graduates via the UCLA LL.M program, it is hard to see what value this program adds above a generic UCLA JD.
4.16.2009 8:13pm
Splunge:
Har har. I am so reminded of the remedial classes now taught in college because students didn't learn what they needed to know in high school...and, of course, high schools remediating the failures of grade school, with much grumbling.

But we all know -- because the Community Organizer In Chief has said so -- that the solution to widespread skills incompetence derived from a disconnect between your experience and the real world is...to re-cloister yourself in academia, far away from the real world, where you'll learn still more and better theories about how the real world works, or at least ought to work, if there weren't so many wreckers and malcontents, greedy businessmen, Right Wing Extremists and the like, messing things up.

I wouldn't worry about the students needing to borrow more money. In the first place, it's the Zeitgeist. Who isn't responding to surprising failures of their investments by borrowing money to make more such investments? When you lose at roulette or craps, everyone knows the only sensible thing to do is double your wager and bet again, so your winnings will cover the early losses.

In the second place, there will probably be opportunities for them to have government borrow it on their behalf instead. Indeed, knowing how colleges work, I would be unsurprised to learn that a major sub rosa motivation here is the student loan munificence ("investment in education") taking shape at Team Obama HQ.

In which case, the Austrian School would shake their collective head in dismay. Nothing like a little extra government-prodded irrational allocation of scare resources to keep things screwed up and out of whack just a bit longer.
4.16.2009 8:18pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

This may be a silly question, but if there has long been discontent among law firms regarding the quality of graduates, why aren't law schools changing their programs to be more relevant. It seems like adding insult to injury to say to a new graduate: "Sorry, your expensive education doesn't prepare you to practice law, but if you'll pay for this additional education, then we'll teach you what you really need to know to practice."


I think that's a fair question. It seems to me that an LLM that teaches you what you really ought to know, is at least a good first step in addressing this particular problem. But it's hardly a solution to the problem, which is many attorneys graduating without practical knowledge or skills necessary to actually practice law. In my opinion, too many law schools behave as if all of their graduates will be funneled into BigLaw where practical skills are basically unnecessary for most first-year associates. Of course the reality is that the vast majority of graduates will not obtain jobs early in their career in BigLaw, including many graduates of top tier law schools. The academic focus of these schools should change to reflect that.

That being said, we should not forget that you do only spend 3 years in law school, and you are expected to graduate knowing enough to teach yourself what you don't know. We shouldn't expect that everybody who graduates from law school should be prepared to immediately open their own general practice firm. In that light, it seems like an additional few semesters of schooling and training isn't such a bad idea.
4.16.2009 8:23pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

In which case, the Austrian School would shake their collective head in dismay. Nothing like a little extra government-prodded irrational allocation of scare resources to keep things screwed up and out of whack just a bit longer.


I'm just curious; do you have the slightest idea that you actually don't know what you're talking about?
4.16.2009 8:26pm
PD Shaw (mail):
I agree with Edward A. Hoffman: "Practical skills are important for aspiring lawyers to learn, but they should be taught as part of the J.D. program."

I think the third year of law school is suspect for a variety of reasons and instead of, oh say, Richard Posner's class on Drama and the Law, where students act out parts in plays, Law Schools would be better suited training students on what to do in the job they accepted early in the year.

On the issue of whether law is a trade or an academic pursuit, I don't take sides, it's both. Why do law schools differ?
4.16.2009 8:54pm
PeterWimsey (mail):
But we all know -- because the Community Organizer In Chief has said so -- that the solution to widespread skills incompetence derived from a disconnect between your experience and the real world is...to re-cloister yourself in academia, far away from the real world, where you'll learn still more and better theories about how the real world works, or at least ought to work, if there weren't so many wreckers and malcontents, greedy businessmen, Right Wing Extremists and the like, messing things up.



Congratulations (semi-seriously) for being able to turn a post about UCLA's LLM program into an attack on Obama. This truly demonstrates and impressive amount of focus.
4.16.2009 9:02pm
CMH:

It seems like adding insult to injury to say to a new graduate: "Sorry, your expensive education doesn't prepare you to practice law, but if you'll pay for this additional education, then we'll teach you what you really need to know to practice."


The real insult to injury comes when, after spending 3 years and thousands of dollars of law school, you still have to drop several thousand more to take a bar review class to actually learn the material on the bar exam...


Practical skills are important for aspiring lawyers to learn, but they should be taught as part of the J.D. program.


Absolutely. But every practicing attorney I know has been complaining for as long as I've known them about this, and law schools don't seem to be changing. Given the choice between incremental change and no change at all, I'll take the former.
4.16.2009 9:07pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

I think the third year of law school is suspect for a variety of reasons and instead of, oh say, Richard Posner's class on Drama and the Law, where students act out parts in plays, Law Schools would be better suited training students on what to do in the job they accepted early in the year.


Absolutely. But every practicing attorney I know has been complaining for as long as I've known them about this, and law schools don't seem to be changing. Given the choice between incremental change and no change at all, I'll take the former.


I think it should also be said that at a lot of law schools, you do actually get a wide amount of leeway in what you take in your second and third year. You can take Drama and the Law, or you can take that Real Estate course, or that course in trial advocacy, or whatnot. Now I agree that law schools should both give you more opportunities to get more practical experience, in addition to requiring that you get more practical experience, to make the experience and quality of their grads a little less haphazard. But it's not all on them, the responsibility to be prepared as an attorney.
4.16.2009 9:38pm
Matt E:
I don't understand why anyone would do this. Would the "experience" gained from a controlled law school program be better than clerking for a state court judge? Better than interning at a DA's office and learning real trial work? Fresh graduates can get better experience without paying for the privilege.

And yes, the third year of law school is completely useless. The people planning on biglaw checked out long ago and none of the professors are qualified to teach people to be trial lawyers. Ideally the third year would be eliminated entirely or maybe it could be an apprenticeship year in the field.
4.16.2009 10:50pm
Splunge:
I'm just curious; do you have the slightest idea that you actually don't know what you're talking about?

Er...about what? That the "Austrian School" suggests government-inspired misallocation of resources screws up your economy? Do you disagree? Seems almost a truism to me, but the depths of confident economic ignorance among educated people are never to be underestimated.

Or did some random snobbish hostility just manifest itself in the Standard Intellectual's Ultimate Put-Down Nyah nyah you're so stooopid! Interesting how some folks are more horrified of being thought stupid than wrong.

Congratulations (semi-seriously) for being able to turn a post about UCLA's LLM program into an attack on Obama. This truly demonstrates and impressive amount of focus.

Geez, project much? Defending Obama is some kind of project of yours? He your uncle or something? So I criticize the concept that more education is any kind of obvious solution to the undesirable side-effects of an intensely theoretical education, noting sarcastically along the way that this virulent pathogen infects the highest levels of social discourse today, e.g. the President's stated priorities -- and the main purpose of my post metamorphosizes into attacking Obama?

I mean, talk about confusing side-effects with goals. Or is your point that the moment one inserts the word "Obama" into a statement he takes over, subverts the statement, makes it all about him however it started out?

Does it work if I mention just his dog instead? If I'd said this bites like a Portuguese water dog would my statement still be an attack on the President?
4.17.2009 1:34am
Mike McDougal:

Fresh graduates can get better experience without paying for the privilege.

Fresh graduates can get paid to get better experience.
4.17.2009 1:43am
asdlkfj (mail):
Seeing this post and the one previous made me realize that for the first time that you can't spell ACLU without UCLA.
Makes the jibe, 'can't spell suck w/o USC', seem not bad in comparison. :-)
4.17.2009 1:47am
Aultimer:
I see an obvious parallel between BA degrees (in Business) and MBAs on one hand, and JD degrees and LLMs (in lawyering) on the other.

Given the quality to pay ratio of most MBAs I've seen in action (*cough* dot-com bubble *cough*), every unemployed 09 grad would be smart to sign up at UCLA.
4.17.2009 2:01pm
UCLA Grad:
As a recent graduate who is clerking, I think this program is a big mistake. It's a tacet admission that three years at UCLA does not give you the skills necesarry to practice. It's graduate school for people who already have a graduate degree. For those who have the misfortune of not having jobs, the school should be arranging free externships with its vast alumni network here in Southern California, and helping to arrange bridge loans, not putting its resources toward an unnecesarry FOURTH year of law school. And I agree that the clinical faculty and the substantive faculty are excellent, and that I hold the school in nothing but high esteem. People should be encouraged to grab a Rutter Guide and give it a go, not spend another year racking up debt to go to school.
4.17.2009 7:09pm
MattC:
Let's compare the two.

Get a real job: no cost, possibly even make some money. Get real-world experience.
Go into LLM program: costs ~$42k. Continue to be taught in classroom.

The only benefit to the latter is that you get an LLM degree. Is that really worth it? I've seen little discussion on the value of an LLM to a non-foreign student, and I have trouble fathoming it when you consider that the student taking the program already has the employment he wants anyways (albeit deferred for a year).
4.18.2009 6:45am

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