Thursday, October 28, 2010

Counterpoint to Myself (re plight of new lawyers)

Inasmuch as my previous post (“Is the Legal Profession Neglecting its Young?”) could be considered a bit inflammatory (though it is meant solely to support the needs of the profession’s newcomers), allow me to convey some additional information provided to me by lawyers within the walls of our suite.

With regard to the sorely missing training element of apprenticeship:

• Some states do offer some kind of apprenticeship. Delaware and Vermont require at least a few months (Delaware, 5; Vermont, 3) of full-time clerkship in a licensed lawyer’s office in order to be eligible for admission to the bar.
• Some other states, including New York, permit law students to behave as lawyers in certain settings, offering but not requiring the opportunity for this kind of real-life experience prior to independent practice. Here in Massachusetts, Northeastern University School of Law’s co-op program provides each student with four distinct 11-week work experiences in real-life settings as a standard feature of legal training. Some other law schools provide a “clinical” component that also offers some exposure to real legal work under the supervision of a licensed attorney with a Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03 certification. (This is more analogous to the practicum components of other kinds of graduate schools than to the post-graduation internship and supervised work experience.)
• A limited number of students each year who attend University of New Hampshire School of Law are permitted to bypass the bar exam by participating in a program of supervised practice.
• In Vermont, Virginia, California, and Washington, one may actually be admitted to the bar without having attended law school, but having instead spent an extended apprenticeship under the aegis of a judge or licensed lawyer.
• Many countries do require (and thus offer) an apprenticeship after achieving a law degree. These include: China, Israel, Japan, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Canada. [This list of countries comes from Wikipedia, so we cannot fully attest to its accuracy. Other information provided above was confirmed via review of official state or university web sites.]

With regard to deficiencies in availability of post-law school education and guidance:

• For help with practice management (as opposed to the how-to of handling cases), Massachusetts attorneys are fortunate to be able to get guidance from the LOMAP program, in areas including marketing, technology, proper handling of client funds accounts, etc. Also useful in this regard is are the articles posted on the Board of Bar Overseers/Office of Bar Counsel web site, covering a wide array of topics.
• Although Massachusetts does not require continuing education, according to the ABA (, all but 6 states do.
• While available mentoring programs are limited in their scope and intensity, they are available in one form or another through various bar associations. Our widely knowledgeable colleagues at the LOMAP program have offered two very useful blog posts on locating mentors, which you may access by clicking these links:, .
• Despite the paucity of guidance offered in any routine fashion to new lawyers, a lawyer who puts enough energy into the legwork can, I am told, develop his or her own cluster of mentors by continuing to approach candidates and not being deterred by those who decline.
• More so than in the clinical professions, sufficient reading/research (accompanied these days by all kinds of listserv options), can elicit much of the guidance a lawyer needs to address novel challenges. Resources include West Law’s Mass Practice, LexisNexis, Social Law Library, ABA’s SoloSez listserv, and more.

So, although the legal profession generally offers much less than other professions in structured, routine guidance and grooming, it’s out there for those who go after it. Those newly admitted to the bar must recognize that, even without formal requirements or supervised experience, their professional education is by no means finished upon obtaining the degree.

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