Joe Palazzolo of the Wall Street Journal Law Blog recently published an article highlighting a proposal to offer a "Law Major" as an undergraduate degree option. The short version, you would spend 2 of the 4 undergrad years studying what the first 2 years of Law School are currently teaching, followed by a one-year apprenticeship after graduation prior to taking the Bar.
Let's analyze this proposal a bit...
While this seems to make sense given skyrocketing Law School tuitions (and is remarkably similar to how the United Kingdom educates lawyers), it will never fly here in the States. Why? Because post-graduate Law Schools are serious cash cows for the universities they are affiliated with. Do you think it actually costs the average law school upwards of $40,000 to $50,000 per year to educate law students? If that were the case, undergraduate studies would cost a lot more than they do.
There would be a flood of new young associates available to firms under this proposal. Such an increase in supply inevitably leads to much lower starting salaries (Economics 101). This isn't a problem for the attorneys, since new associates wouldn't be saddled with an average $100,000 or more in student loan debt.
More, and cheaper, new associates means less need for trained, experienced Paralegals. At best, it would seriously drive down our salaries and job security. At worst, it could kill off our profession entirely over time.
Ironically, the only group that may support this idea is Law Firms. Lower starting salaries for new Associates, who could bill at the same (or nearly so) rate as they currently do. That means a LOT more money flowing into the Partnership's pockets. Somehow I doubt Law Firms would significantly lower their billing rates, and would readily find a way to maximize the benefit to clients of having even more lawyers working on their cases. Certainly no lawyer I have ever worked for would seriously consider it, no matter how much cheaper new Associates might be.