First, the GRE became optional, and now attending law school itself might become voluntary. By 2020, legal education around the world will be radically different.
The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulating arm of the legal profession in England and Wales, is giving future legal professionals more options. In three years, those looking to become a solicitor in the UK, will not be required to earn their juris doctor to practice law. Come 2020, aspiring lawyers may take a competency-based examination instead.
The Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) also referred to as the “super exam” is made up of both competency and experiential learning components. The curriculum tied to the SQE requires critical thinking, online learning, and real world experience through apprenticeships. It can be completed both in and outside of the graduate university setting.
In order to pass the super exam, test takers must still demonstrate doctrinal knowledge of law (property, torts, contracts, etc.) and basic legal competency in areas like client interviews, legal research, advocacy, and case analysis. In addition, those taking the SQE must pass a character and suitability requirement. They must also have an undergraduate degree or an equivalent qualification of professional experience to be exempt from law school.
This alternative to law school shifts the focus of the course work to include more education on the job rather than just in the classroom setting. It also makes the path to becoming a lawyer much more economical. Law school debt may no longer be an issue in the UK as a result. Eliminating the burden of such financial debts could open the legal profession to a more diverse applicant pool as well.
As a self-regulating profession in the United States, this may not become reality here soon, but only time will tell. The ABA has considered formulating an alternative regulating arm before. So maybe by 2050, law school will be optional in the United States too?