With all the recent discussions about the need to re-think legal education and the value proposition facing law students deciding about attending law school, I started wondering - and I'd really like to know this - how universities in the U.S. ended up teaching law to begin with. It's not really an academic discipline in the same way as many other things taught at universities, although I know the U.K. has a long historical tradition of offering studies in law.
The reason I ask is that I have vague memories of my 1L "history of the legal profession" class back in Australia many years ago and I know we learned about how and when Australian universities started teaching law. Initially it was taught by trade schools and practitioners. Even now, in Australia, one can't practice law without undertaking either a year of professional training school after university or a year as an articled clerk to a law firm partner who then certifies the completion of the practical legal training.
Who is really doing the practical legal training in the U.S.? Here, it's just university degree + bar exam. And neither of these avenues seems to give students exactly the kinds of skills they need - at a reasonable cost - to do what they need to be able to do as a baby lawyer.
As a side note, there was a brief time (and I believe that time has passed now) in Australia when some universities tried to compete with the practical legal training schools for offering the post-law-school pratical training. My understanding was that these experiments didn't work very well and that practical training was found not to be best provided at a reasonable cost by universities. This was after my time so I'm going on hearsay, and I'd be happy to be corrected by anyone with better knowledge of those experiments.
But if anyone knows how and why the legal training system was set up in the U.S. in the way it was, I'd be very interested to learn about it.