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Pepperdine University
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Pepperdine and the New California Bar Rules

Last week at Pepperdine, in advance of the new admissions rules for the California bar, at the urging of our dean, the faculty approved new graduation requirements of 50 hours of pro bono work for students and 15 units of “practice-based, experiential course work.”   These will be in effect for the incoming class of 2017. 

These requirements track the new California bar rules for admission.  The California State Bar’s Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform (TFARR) has established working groups to work out the definitions and procedures for implementing the new rules.   There is more here. 

The Task Force plans to work until September 2014 before issuing final rules.   This is the text of the pertinent rules from the site:

Pre-admission: A competency training requirement fulfilled prior to admission to practice. There would be two routes for fulfillment of this pre-admission competency training requirement: (a) at any time in law school, a candidate for admission must have taken at least 15 units of practice-based, experiential course work that is designed to develop law practice competencies, and (b) in lieu of some or all of the 15 units of practice-based, experiential course work, a candidate for admission may opt to participate in a Bar-approved externship, clerkship or apprenticeship at any time during or following completion of law school;

Pre-admission or post-admission: An additional competency training requirement, fulfilled either at the pre- or post- admission stage, where 50 hours of legal services is specifically devoted to pro bono or modest means clients. Credit towards those hours would be available for “in-the-field” experience under the supervision and guidance of a licensed practitioner or a judicial officer. . . .

These are some of the outstanding issues for the implementation committees:

What does “pro bono” include?  Will the rule limit pro bono to traditional legal services placements?  Will the Bar track ABA Model Rule 6.1?   Will be it broader or more narrow?   Will it track New York’s rule that includes judicial externships, district attorneys and governmental law offices?  

Will students be able to earn “dual credit” by taking a clinic or similar course that offers “practice-based, experiential course work” and pro bono services simultaneously?  

Who will certify whether a course is practice-based and experiential?  Will the Bar approve specific offerings or defer to law schools to determine which courses qualify?  

Should a portion of the 15 units include clinics or externships?  For instance, the committee is considering whether to require that 3 or 4 of the 15 units be in-house clinics or field placements.  

Can substantive, doctrinal classes carve out a portion of the traditional podium course to include experiential components that can count toward the 15 units?   For instance, could a contracts class provide .5 units toward the requirement by including a simulated drafting or negotiation component?  

Can students satisfy all or part of the apprenticeship option during traditional summer work, and, if so, how will law schools be involved in the quality control and certification of compliance? 

In future posts, I will describe the competing positions, my preferences and make some predictions. 

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