I woke up particularly early this morning, and I was surprisingly reflective (given how very early it was). “It’s sunny,” I thought. “I’m back in the East Bay,” I thought. “I’m doing exactly what I want to do,” I thought.
But to be honest, working full time for a nonprofit law center and reading the law outside of law school was not what I was planning to do with my life. A year ago, I was on track for graduate school. Like a lot of young college grads, I was following “The Plan,” which is to spend 4-10 more years in yet another school program, rack up debt, and wait for a degree before I could do the things I wanted to do.
Why was I so set on graduate school? I was following The Plan, certainly, but I had three other good reasons. Reason #1: I love to learn. Reason #2: Watching my dad teach and seeing the impact he has on his students’ lives proved how powerful teaching could be. Reason #3: Teaching my own student-led course when I was a student at UC Berkeley made me realize that I also love to teach.Read more
“What? You can do that!? I’ve never heard of that before…”
“Yes, in California you can do that, really, yeah, I know, not that many people know about it. Lots of attorneys don’t even know about it.”
This is how many conversations go when I first meet people who ask me what I do and I explain that I’m an apprentice at a law firm as part of the California State Bar’s Law Office Study Program, which means that I’m becoming an attorney without going to any formal law school. While I’ve had pretty much this exact same conversation with so many people in my first year and three months as an independent study law student, I’m still not tired of it yet!Read more
I discovered a new hero tonight, and it’s not just because Belva Lockwood advocated in the 1860s for the notion that girls should be taught to roller skate. Lockwood was one of this country’s first woman lawyers, and the first woman to be admitted to practice under and argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. My partner was reading a history book about Lockwood, CA this evening and declared that our apprentice blog could potentially be called LikeLockwood, instead of LikeLincoln. Lockwood wasn’t a lawyer’s apprentice, but since she was repeatedly blocked from attending law school and lectures in her attempt to become a lawyer, she was partially a self-taught lawyer. Lockwood’s story could be an inspiring one for the legal apprenticeship movement, and it’s not only because she found many creative ways to learn the law outside of law school. I’m also struck by the fact that, in the same way that women were denied the ability to practice law in the 1800s, being low-income today may constructively block someone from doing so by virtue of the high costs of law school.Read more
One of the responsibilities of an attorney supervising legal apprentices in California is to administer an exam to apprentices once per month. When I sat down to write the first apprentice exam, it suddenly hit me that I had no idea what I was doing. “Pretend you are a Jeopardy contestant,” I told myself, “start with the answers, and then write a question that would elicit that answer.” But, no. A game of Jeopardy is about right and wrong answers/questions, and practicing law is about interpreting, arguing, analyzing, and navigating within vast grey areas. “Hmm…,” I thought, “writing an exam is harder than taking one!”Read more
Two years ago I was living in a grass thatched, mud hut. My communication with the outside world was done from atop a two-story termite mound. I bathed from a bucket under the shade of trees. And my diet consisted of boiled leaves, caterpillars, and hard porridge. Now, I’m beginning a Law Office study program in one of the most technologically advanced and innovative areas of the world. I’m Ricardo Samir Nuñez and I’m a Legal Apprentice at the Sustainable Economies Law Center.Read more
Abraham Lincoln never went to law school; yet, he is one of the most celebrated lawyers in U.S. history. Society take note: Going to law school is not the only route to becoming a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer. In fact, becoming a lawyer by apprenticing may be an incredibly effective way to learn how to practice law. The apprenticeship route to becoming a lawyer makes the legal profession accessible to those who cannot afford the time and expense of law school, and offers innumerable other benefits to apprentices, supervising attorneys, and society.Read more