In recent years we have witnessed evidence of student unrest and dissatisfaction in many universities, both in the United States and in many, if not most, foreign countries. In some instances those enrolled in a course of legal study have been in the front ranks of the students protesting the quality of their education and the methods used in endeavoring to provide a well rounded legal education. When comparing legal education in West Germany and the United States, one must initially recognize that there is a difference in the philosophy in the two countries as to the study of law and the purpose and objectives of a law school. In general we find in American universities a greater interest in teaching students the practical problems a lawyer encounters in every day practice than in West Germany. The German universities appear to be more concerned with legal philosophy than those in the United States. The students in both countries are striving for changes in the system under which they are studying. Students in each country appear to be critical of the system under which they are studying and appear to be seeking modification so that their system will more nearly approach the system that is presently enjoyed in the other country. That is to say, the German law student complains that many of the courses offered in the German universities are more theoretical than practical. Many of the law students studying in the United States insist that too much time is spent in teaching "know-how" as distinguished from the reason for the rule of law. Recognizing that most readers of this article are in a general way familiar with the general concepts applicable to legal education in the United States, the authors of this article will not dwell on the subject of legal education in the United States, but will devote their attention to legal education in West Germany. The reader may make his own determination as to the merits of each system and whether the best of each may be combined to improve the overall quality of legal education in both countries. Except for the practice of law in the Federal Courts in the United States, the United States Government has not, and possibly may not, concern itself with the qualifications one must possess to practice law in states of the United States. The federal law of the Federal Republic of Germany determines the requirements one must satisfy in order to qualify as a judge any place in Germany. When one satisfies these requirements, he likewise satisfies the requirement to be a lawyer. It appears that the West German legal education system is directed toward educating persons to be judges and who may incidentially become lawyers, while in the United States our law schools are interested in educating persons to be lawyers who may incidentially become judges. The laws of the Federal Republic of Germany establish the following minimum requirements which must be satisfied as a condition precedent to be becoming a lawyer. First, one must study law in a university for riot less than three and one half years. Second, one must pass the first of two state-administered examinations. Third, the lawyer-to-be must spend at least two and one half years in various courts and offices in Germany receiving practical instruction in the workings of the office and the courts. Fourth, one must then satisfactorily complete the second state administered examination. Each of the German states is authorized to prescribe additional requirements. By providing certain minimum national requirements with respect to admission to the bar, the Federal Republic of Germany has assured a rather uniform educational standard for members of the legal profession. When one is authorized to practice law in Germany, he is attached in fact to a court, and is not permitted to practice law in civil cases in courts of another German state. However, if one should relocate to another state in the Federal Republic of Germany, he need not be re-examined, but becomes attached to the court "in the state to which he moves. While the state-administered examinations are administered by each of the German states, they are, in effect, effective for all states in Germany. It is clear that there are two distinct steps in educating a German lawyer. The first step is the formal education in one or more German universities and the second step is the period of practical instruction between the first and second state examination. The latter is in the nature of on the job training where the lawyer-tobe is afforded the opportunity to observe the day to day operations of the office or court. In providing the two steps in the legal education process, one studying law is afforded the opportunity to learn under the legal thinkers and also under the tutorage of those who must resolve the day to day legal problems. The German lawyer has been exposed to both the theoretical and practical approach to the practice of the law.
Wilfried Schluter & William O. Morris,
A Comparison of Legal Education in the United States and West Germany,
W. Va. L. Rev.
Available at: https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/wvlr/vol72/iss4/3