With law school enrollment at historic lows, today’s schools are competing harder and harder for a shrinking pool of applicants. Applicants who eventually want jobs. And some schools are trying to entice prospective students with “practice ready” programs. These programs are supposed to prepare you for the real work everyday attorneys do, and, more importantly, turn you into a more attractive candidate for prospective employers.
There’s some evidence that practice ready schools may better prepare students for some practice areas. However, we don’t know whether employers will give any weight to the benefits of these programs in legal hiring. Intuitively it makes sense that, all else being equal, employers would prefer a “practice ready” graduate over one who isn’t.
Practice ready programs could also be pretty fun, if you don’t like traditional law school classes – and many don’t. A common gripe among law students is that lectures and class discussions are often too removed from black letter legal rules and actual legal practice. Most professors take a long, historical approach to teaching the law, in which you read dozens of cases that are no longer “good law.” The whole process can leave you with the impression that class has pretty much nothing to do with the work of practicing attorneys.
However, I doubt anyone really needs a practice ready program to acquire practical skills during law school. When you get to law school, you’ll have ample opportunities to take part in pro bono work. Some schools even require it. Sure, you’re probably not going to find a pro bono “mergers and acquisitions” program, but pro bono work can be a fun and practical way to gain legal experience and signal your interests to employers.
While I’m sure any prospective students reading this will get several emails during the application cycle touting this or that practice ready program, the availability of such a program should be pretty low on your list of priorities as a law school applicant. It’s too early to tell if these programs will lead to more hiring. Instead, put your trust in the Law School Transparency reports.