Should law school be a professional faculty designed to produce legal technicians, or a theory-based approach designed to give students a conceptual understanding of the law? When the latter holds true, and law schools do not fully prepare students for the reality of practice, a new start-up is promising to fill this knowledge gap.
Solo Practice University is an online community aimed at allowing law students and recent graduates to learn directly from legal professionals. It is, in its own words, “a revolutionary new web-based educational community that picks up where your legal education left off.”
The community will be composed of blogs, profiles, a messaging function, and interest-based user groups. SPU has already accumulated a faculty which rivals the size of some law schools, and is continuing to add to that number. It hopes to have a representation from a comprehensive list of professional fields by the time it is fully operational. Enrolment at SPU will be restricted to lawyers, law students, and recent grads; legal “outsiders” will not be admitted. Because the institution “is not a brick and mortar structure,” there is virtually no restriction on the size of both the faculty and the student body.
A very appealing quality of SPU is its thorough integration of social and professional aspects of legal practice. More than being just a “how-to” on practical topics, it will provide a means to network with other law students and lawyers, and will address issues like how to maintain a work/life balance.
The “Solo” in the name is not without significance. SPU will teach fresh grads how to get out on their own and set up an independent legal practice. The institution hopes to give out scholarships to those who want to start up a solo practice but who don’t have sufficient financial assets to do so.
Even though the University is not yet up and running, it has launched its official website, and there is hype aplenty. One SPU professor calls the school an “unparalleled opportunity to expand your network, learn new skills, find the best technology, and build your practice.” Another, “Solo Practice University is [a] resource with the potential to make a major and lasting impact on the profession.” These expectations are justified: SPU combines the best aspects of the blawgosphere in one convenient package, with a mandate to fill a pedagogical void that exists in conventional legal education.