Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Recent law school graduates who plan to practice in Oregon have been put on notice that their formal legal education won't end once they pass the bar.
They will be the first to participate in a mandatory yearlong mentorship program designed to help them develop the practical and professional skills they need to be successful lawyers. The requirement was announced in a letter that Oregon Chief Justice Paul De Muniz sent to all February bar exam takers. The program requires new attorneys to pair up with experienced practitioners who will offer monthly guidance on everything from ethics and professionalism to the inner workings of a transactional or litigation practice.
The New Lawyer Mentoring Program — being developed by the Oregon State Bar at the request of the Oregon Supreme Court — will be the third such program in the country when it begins in May. "Part of this program is intended to address a problem that didn't exit in the past," said Steve Piucci, president of the Oregon bar.
"You would graduate law school, get a job at a firm and people there would serve as mentors," Piucci said. "Now, there are so many people who can't get firm jobs and are hanging out their shingle. We're trying to connect them with the professional side of the job and teach them the culture — teach them how to be civil, how to network and introduce them around at the courthouse."
Many state and local bars, law firms and other legal organizations offer smaller-scale or voluntary mentoring, but only Utah and Georgia have bar-mandated mentoring programs now. The idea appears to be catching on, however. The Wyoming State Bar plans to add a mentorship requirement in July and the State Bar of Nevada hopes to roll out a yearlong program in 2012. Other states are considering similar efforts.