Legal Guide

Legal profession and education in the USA

The legal profession in the United States is a socially influential, prestigious, self-governing, mass, and lucrative profession. The legal world is one of its cores. The legal tradition and the legal system, in particular, the leading role of the court in the United States have significantly influenced the formation of the traditions of the legal profession and education in this country.

Law as an integrated, self-governing, and responsible profession

The legal profession in the United States has been formed over more than 200 years of the country's history. American law has adopted the British tradition of the leading role of the court and the idea of ​​the judge as the personification of legal wisdom and the career peak of a lawyer. In the new country, on the basis of meritocracy (rather than aristocracy), the legal profession became open and, therefore, prestigious. 

Ambitious people from all over the country and the world sought to make the most of their career opportunities, which led to the fight against excessive opportunism, in particular, in the form of canons of the legal profession aimed at forming a responsible lawyer. Gradually, the court or bar - a special organization of lawyers in a particular jurisdiction, and public organizations of lawyers have established American law as an integrated, self-governing, and, at the same time, responsible profession.

The legal profession in the United States is massive and profitable

In a country of 300 million people, 56 jurisdictions, according to various estimates, there are more than 1 million lawyers. More than 100,000 future lawyers are trained in at least 200 law schools - special higher professional educational institutions. At least 50,000 graduates each year gain the right to practice. Revenues from the provision of legal services in the structure of US national income, at some stage, exceeded the revenues of the country's leading industries.

Peculiarities of the regulation of lawyers' activities carried out by various bodies and organizations of lawyers are the system of obtaining a lawyer's qualification and admission to the profession through a bar, as well as the privilege (monopoly) of lawyers to practice law. Upon admission to the bar, the lawyer continues to "practice law" as a lawyer, judge, prosecutor, legal adviser, or another representative of the legal profession.

Despite the contradictions and ambiguities inherent in the legal profession in the United States, it is developing as a social phenomenon, attracting attention outside the country.

Legal education and training as the core of the legal profession

The legal world is one of the pillars of the US legal profession. Its main component, starting from the middle of the XIX century, is a law school. This institute, as an organizationally more complex form, replaced the institute of "apprenticeship" (in fact, the training of specialists in the workplace), became a professional forum of lawyers, in which the older generation forms a new generation of lawyers in the spirit of cooperation. The establishment of the institute was facilitated by meeting the need for systematic training of lawyers, in particular, for the qualifying exam, and hence the practice of law. The task of the law school, given the federal state and the legal system, was to teach the graduate to "think like a lawyer", to promote the development of professional skills (including through appropriate methods) to prepare him for law practice in any jurisdiction (state) of the USA.

A law school in the United States, which must be accredited by the AAU or another state authority, does not certify a graduate as a lawyer, but only provides a minimum level of competence that is tested during the qualifying exams. These exams are different for each state: the Illinois bar exam is not the same as the Minnesota bar exam.

Competition between law schools is a healthy phenomenon that contributes to the improvement of legal education as a basis for legal professionalism. The entrepreneurial nature of law schools in the United States has not led to the development of distance learning. The stimulating environment of the law school encourages students and teachers to high educational and professional achievements.

In general, the system of training lawyers in the United States is characterized by selectivity (selection for law school by many criteria), short-term (average 3 years, however, after a university bachelor's degree), and cost (more than 40 thousand dollars).

Qualification of a lawyer: the graduate is not yet a lawyer

Admission to the legal profession in the United States is characterized by openness and demand. To become a lawyer, it is not enough to get a law school diploma; you need to get a license for "practice of law" from a special trade union organization of jurisdiction - the court or bar. The bar, in a broad sense, is all members of the legal profession; in the narrow sense, it is a community of lawyers of a certain jurisdiction (territorially - for example, state, or organizationally - for example, court), authorized to regulate “admission to lawyers” and to bring to disciplinary responsibility.

The terms bar and bar association are different. The first is the law of general or specific jurisdiction, of which everyone who wants to become a lawyer must become a member, while the bar association is a public organization on the basis of voluntary membership. For example, the state of California has the State Bar of California and many public law organizations. There are also student bar associations in law schools. The largest bar association is the American Bar Association, which includes more than 400,000 members of all legal professions, as well as law students.

Each US jurisdiction has the right to independently regulate the licensing of lawyers, practicing law within it. Some states also have systems in place to specialize lawyers with specific requirements.

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