Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Should Law School Be Required to Practice Law?

Lawyer Insurance North CarolinaA proposed bill in Arizona would allow anyone who passes the bar examination to practice law - with or without a degree from an accredited law school.

Under Arizona SCR 1018, anyone who passes a standardized state exam – whether or not they have watched so much as a single episode of Law and Order – will be allowed to hang out a shingle and begin representing clients. They would share equal status with those unfortunates who spent the prior three years digesting cases and memorizing the Rule in Shelley’s Case.

State senator Rick Murphy, the real estate agent and business consultant behind the bill, believes the value of a law degree is wildly overrated.

“There are lots of folks who go to law school and then have no idea how to successfully practice law,” the Glendale Republican told the Arizona Daily Star. “I hired some of those people. So I ought to know.”

Critics pointed out that Arizona requires many other professionals – from accountants to zookeepers – to have some degree of actual classroom training before becoming licensed. Barbers, for example, must have 1,300 hours of schooling and cosmetologists need 1,600.

Murphy dismisses this argument, saying you can get a bad haircut at a law office as easily as a barber shop – and if you can explain the logic of that statement, you win a framed copy of the Magna Carta.

In a sense, Murphy’s Law is nothing new. Well into the 1900s you could become licensed in Arizona – as in other states – by simply by reading the law and passing a bar exam.

But this new effort to abolish the law school requirement appears doomed. Even Murphy’s legislative colleagues are panning the proposal.

One place where the idea has sparked lively debate, however, is the ABA’s Solo, Small Firm and General Practice LinkedIn Group. At last count a post on Murphy’s “no law school required” bill had drawn 26 comments – or about 26 times more than the typical post.

Here is a sampling:

  • Perhaps law schools will all get the message that instead of just churning out lawyers who can “practice” law they need to consider teaching lawyers how to do the “business of law.”
  • A further attempt to destroy our profession.
  • [I]t is a wake-up call that we need to take a serious look at what should be taught in law school.
  • I received my JD from an online law school and passed the CA Bar on the first try, but I live in AZ and all I want is the chance to prove I am qualified by passing the AZ bar exam.
  • I’d say the 3rd year should be specialty law courses and then the rest be internships or clinics.
  • I also don’t believe that the ABA stamp of approval should be required so long as the curriculum is comparable. I firmly believe that there are schools with the comparable curriculum who are not ABA approved, such as my school, that are just as good, if not better, than some of the top tier schools which are ABA approved and which cost twice as much as my school.
  • [R]eciprocity should be extended between states without exam if a member has been practicing five years with no disciplinary action. And if five years is not the magic number, then make it 10. The point is a successful attorney should not be required to take a post law school exam because real practice involves a combination of learning in school and learning through practice.
  • If we are going back to how Lincoln did it, I don’t have a problem with it. The 19th century produced plenty of good lawyers who clerked their way into the profession.


Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He attended three years of law school but has no idea who Shelley is or what Shelley’s Rule is about., phone 919-619-2441.

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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