In five states, students interested in law can become lawyers by taking a legal apprenticeship instead of the seven or more years of undergrad plus grad school.
According to Shareable, the states that allow this are California, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. And while this is not the case in Illinois, depending on what lawyer is asked, this may or may not be a good thing.
In a recent interview with Dartesia Pitts, an Illinois attorney from Greene and Letts, reporter Shamontiel Vaughn asked about her own educational and professional background and whether she thinks the legal industry could use a revamp.
"It’s almost a right of passage that we require lawyers to go through the rigor of that education," said Dartesia Pitts, an Illinois attorney from Greene and Letts. "But we’re going to have to deal with the time and cost of education for students overall. You find a lot of lawyers who have all of this debt, but they don’t have the income that [can] balance it out."
While that may be true, it has not stopped Pitts from advancing with her own education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a J.D. from Northern Illinois.
"I’m always involved in continuing my education," Pitts confirmed. " I am an IMPACT Fellow in a program with the University of Chicago’s School of Business. They’re partnered with the Chicago Urban League. This particular fellowship deals with leadership development for urban professionals under the age of 45 in the City of Chicago."
Although Pitts’ parents initially encouraged her to choose a more "vocational" career field, such as chemistry or another natural science, political science kept speaking to her. Eventually she transitioned to Black Student Union (BSU) and senate co-chair in her student government. After working for Selective Liberal Arts Consortium, Pitts made the permanent move to the legal world.
And while she is savvy in the law and science industries, there is one category that she wishes more law school students would embrace: business.
"You can become a better lawyer when you’re able to see the bigger picture of the cost and benefits as it relates to practicing overall for your client," said Pitts, told Shamontiel. "They always say, ’Law school breeds lawyers, but they don’t breed good business men and/or women.’ No matter what practice area you go into, knowing the bottom line can be beneficial for your practice and your clients."
For an outsider, it may seem odd for anyone in the legal industry to not be a good business person by default. But for someone within the field, Pitts can say first-hand that there is room for growth for newbies to the legal industry.
"The practice of law is an academic practice," said Pitts. "[Law school] doesn’t offer those types of classes that explain what a billable hour is. They don’t put into practice or practicum in law school that show you how that theory and that idea works in the real world. Law school focuses on that academic grind, talking about case law and the theory behind different common law and civil law. It’s really a liberal arts study. They don’t really focus on the technical issues that real world lawyers address, especially as it relates to the practice of law as a business."
As with any industry, there’s a learning curve. Sometimes students will stick it out with whatever major they started with. Other times they’ll find out that their skill sets and personality work better in another industry. Pitts is part of the latter group. Instead of discussing H20, she found a career she could breathe life into.