Monday, September 3, 2012

More states should follow Iowa's new lawyer mentoring program

An editorial from the New York Law Journal argues that more states need to follow the lead of the Iowa bar by implementing programs that match new law grads with experienced solos who can help them transition into small town practice. While elite schools like Columbia are expanding academic offerings in highfalutin specialties like international commercial and investment arbitration, the vast majority of law grads will instead be helping clients with more pedestrian tasks like residential real estate closings. And it's here that mentoring programs can really help new lawyers launch a practice.

Yoda, Iowa . . . A New Hope?

. . . .

Iowa's new state bar plan of pairing solo practitioners with law students they can mentor in hopes they can find, literally, heirs at law, made nationwide news recently. The media angle depicted the program as a sort of expose on what happens to those who can't land that dream big-firm job. They are put out to pasture, apparently, to spend their careers drafting tractor-sale contracts. I half expected to read about Iowa's longstanding courtroom practice of making an objection by simply hitching one's thumbs through one's overalls and puffing twice on a corn-cob pipe; or asking, "Judge, may I John Deere this witness?"

But the truth is that even in the Big Apple, most lawyers are either solos or work at small firms. These "minor players" handle the majority of the cases that flow through the state's courts. Preparing graduates to be actual practitioners—either by copying the Hawkeye state's approach or by adding more practice-centric academic clinics—would be the wisest investment law schools could make.


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