Monday, March 21, 2011

New York State Bar Association "task force" identifies ways to improve the training of new lawyers

Last summer, the president of the New York Bar Association formed a task force to consider issues facing the future of legal practice. The recently published report addresses four key areas: 1.) the evolving structure of private practice, including alternative billing practices; 2.) the education, training and development of new lawyers; 3.) work-life balance and integration; and 4.) harnessing technology to support practice. Here's a summary of the recommendations regarding the training of new lawyers:

1. Engage with educators and employers to conduct research and curriculum reform geared towards identifying and inculcating core competencies (knowledge, skills, values, habits and traits) that make for successful lawyers, as contrasted to solely doctrine-based learning.
2. Support the development of new assessment tools for law students and new lawyers, including the use of outcome-based analysis for new lawyers and alternatives to traditional essay-writing in law schools.
3. Experiment with the bar exam to de-emphasize strict memorization of diverse legal rules and principles, emphasizing the core legal rules necessary to begin practice and the assessment of problem solving capabilities. Support research into the disparate impact of credentialing practices upon minority applicants to the Bar, to determine whether the credentialing process accurately predicts success or arbitrarily inhibits diversity.
4. Reduce credit restrictions on the extent to which clinical or “outside the classroom” experiential coursework can count towards admission to the New York State Bar. New York State is the most restrictive state in accepting clinical and practical education.
5. Formally study and consider whether to adopt a mandatory mentorship program for new lawyers or to integrate continuing legal education requirements with mentoring.
6. Monitor the cost of legal education and support critical evaluation and transparency of hiring criteria and salary expectations. The NYSBA should support efforts to minimize the impact of student debt on the future members of the profession and encourage prospective students to make informed decisions about the cost of legal training, based on accurate information.

You can read the full report here.

Hat tip to the ABA Journal.


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