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The university law school is a relatively recent innovation, not just in Nevada but throughout much of the United States as well. In this inaugural issue of the Nevada Law Journal, which marks the establishment in 1998 of the Boyd School of Law, the first state-supported and the only existing law school in Nevada, it is fitting that we examine the methods of legal education and entry to the practice of law that preceded the rise of legal education within the university.

Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, the apprenticeship system constituted the dominant mode of preparation for a career in the American practice of law. Yet surprisingly little scholarly attention has been accorded this important institution. Historians and legal scholars have largely ignored such questions as: how did the apprenticeship process actually work, what were its objectives and how well did it achieve them, and how might this history inform contemporary discussions about improving methods of legal education. This essay seeks to provoke discussion of these and other related, similarly neglected issues by closely examining the workings of the apprenticeship system within the office of one prominent Indianapolis attorney, Calvin Fletcher, who ushered numerous aspiring lawyers into the practice of law during the second quarter of the nineteenth century.