QI’m a first-year law student and already have mounds of debt. Law school is OK. I like the challenge and the law—in other words, law is a good fit for me. I just hate that my debt will only get bigger and the jobs scarcer. I’m thinking about dropping out and trying to land an apprenticeship in New York, which lets you sit for the bar exam if you’ve worked for four years in a law office. What do you think? Do you know anyone who has done that successfully?
ANope. Teddy Roosevelt dropped out of Columbia Law School because law was so dull, but then again he did a few things after dropping out and probably would have been allowed to practice law in New York if he just asked. But my bet is you are no Teddy Roosevelt.
It’s a damn interesting question, particularly today. First, you obviously won’t work in BigLaw, as no big firm or big firm partner is going to take on the task of educating you. Or hiring you. Or even looking at your resume. Nor would most attorneys. Sure, New York lets you go to law school for a year, drop out, and then be an “apprentice” for four years in a law office. But that just allows you to sit for the bar exam. And the big catch? This:
the applicant must receive instruction from said attorney or attorneys in those subjects which are customarily taught in approved law schools.
I’m not sure how many lawyers in New York want to take on the task of opening a mini-law school in their office, but then again maybe there are some who have always been the professorial sort. Or maybe it’s not all that hard to be a professor of hard knocks.
Whatever you do, look beyond New York. California has a fairly well established apprenticeship-type bar admissions program that requires four years of work in a law office plus passage of the “Baby Bar Exam.” After that, you can sit for the regular bar exam. Hell, you don’t even need a college degree to do that one. But you still need to pass the California Bar Exam, which some pretty smart folks have failed. Repeatedly.
In the end, if you land a law job that is also on the road to sitting for a state bar exam, who wouldn’t want to get paid essentially to go to law school? Even if it’s a measly ten bucks an hour, it’s still better than hedging nondischargeable debt against an increasingly unlikely future as a high-paid lawyer. I’d be interested to know if anyone is on this route. It’s totally old school.