Preparing the Next Generation of Lawyers
Prospective students often ask about the best subject areas to focus on to prepare for law school. My answer is that it matters less what you study than how you study. To be successful, it is useful to study something that you love and dig deep in a field that best fits your interests and talents. Abraham Lincoln, perhaps America’s most famous and respected lawyer, advised aspiring lawyers: “If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already…. Get the books, and read and study them till you understand them in their principal features; and that is the main thing.”
Today, with so much information and knowledge available in cyberspace, Lincoln’s advice is more relevant than ever. Like most professions, law has been forever altered by advances in technology and the global economy, factors that have significantly broadened the universe of skills and backgrounds necessary for the legal services industry to be truly responsive to society’s changing needs. Given this rapidly changing landscape for new lawyers, how exactly should prospective students prepare for law school? How should we evaluate their qualifications for admission? How should we educate them for a rapidly changing profession? Law schools are examining those questions as they educate the next generation of lawyers.
With these questions in mind, a growing number of law schools across the country—19 as of this writing, including Brooklyn Law School—are now accepting Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. In our case, this will begin with applications for fall 2018 admission. More law schools are sure to follow. Quoted in a recent story in the Economist, “Why Are Law Schools Accepting the GRE?” our Dean of Admissions Eulas Boyd explains: “It’s pretty shortsighted for us to say that you need to prove your fidelity to a legal career by taking the LSAT now and preparing for months, as opposed to a test that could potentially qualify you for several careers.”
Boyd is right. We made this modest change in our own admissions process to encourage highly qualified students from diverse academic and work backgrounds to apply and pursue a law degree. Our Law School long has attracted students who come to us with deep experience and study in myriad fields. Currently, more than 60 percent of our applicants have one to five years of work experience after college or graduate school, bringing a wealth of talent, skills, and maturity to their legal education. Law schools also are finding that individuals who are studying or working in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields perform at high levels in law school. Yet the traditional image of a law student is someone with a degree in the humanities or social sciences. Although certainly these backgrounds always will be important, lawyers today must be fully equipped to deal successfully with the emerging legal issues raised by our new multidisciplinary, multinational, multilingual reality. They also must be effective communicators ready for a new world of law that will increasingly be shaped by a generation of digital natives.
This month, at our 117th Commencement, we will send more than 360 of these lawyers newly minted into the world and to an astounding range of jobs—many in fields that did not exist when most of us graduated from law school, even five or 10 years ago. The class of 2018 will follow in the footsteps of generations of our distinguished graduates who have used the power of their legal education to make a positive difference in our city, our nation, and our world. As they receive their diploma, they also will inherit this enduring Brooklyn Law School legacy and help lead the way into a better future.
Joseph Crea Dean and President