Should Law Grads Have to Complete Residencies to Practice Law?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on January 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Residencies for lawyers may be the wave of the future, according to the California bar.

Don't worry too much yet. The idea is still in that ethereal initial stage. A task force has simply been assembled to analyze the issue.

So it will take some time. After all, the legal profession is a lumbering beast. It's not exactly prone to changing its old habits. The Socratic method? It's still there. The lack of teaching practical skills? Yeah, that's still there too.

Still, let's mull over the idea of residencies for a few moments.

What exactly would happen if they were required? Perhaps attorneys would devolve into a sad sack of dramatics like the doctors featured on Grey's Anatomy. Let's not forget that those "physicians" were residents at their fictional hospital. And it made for great television.

So would residencies for lawyers play out like a legal version of Grey's Anatomy? Think about it: a television drama featuring resident lawyers. It could be called Black's Law Dictionary.

Joking aside, residency could provide skill development. Ultimately, it may lead to a whole generation of better-trained lawyers. It may also help attorneys land that first job.

After all, it might be good to expose law students the actual practice of law. Most law students are confused when they graduate. Not only are the free WestLaw days over, but they actually have to do legal "stuff." Only a few actually know how. Most are still reeling from having to memorize the rule against perpetuities for the bar.

Drafting contracts, wills, and propounding discovery? These are usually not the type of tasks students tackle during law school.

Can you imagine the possibilities -- lawyers completing residencies, fully equipped to practice law? Though perhaps there are downsides. It is another requirement that will need to be tacked on to a relatively lengthy three-year degree.

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