Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pace law school joins others in starting a solo practitioner incubator project

Like CUNY and UMKC before it, Pace will launch next September a solo practitioner incubator project to help new law grads learn how to run their own firms. In this instance, however, participants in the project will provide legal representation to low income clients.  Given the large number of new law grads looking for work, it makes perfect sense to match them up with people who need legal help but otherwise can't afford it (although obtaining quality legal representation is also beyond the means of many middle class families too). Not incidentally, the school may also get a boost to its NALP employment stats. Sounds like a win-win all around. 

Here's the skinny courtesy of the National Law Journal:

The Pace Community Law Practice is set to open in September 2012, the school announced, and will employ between five and seven recent Pace graduates. Those participants will offer low-cost legal assistance in areas including immigration, family and housing law while attending seminars on obtaining and billing clients, malpractice insurance and setting up a law office.

"What's important to us is that they have good supervision," said Jennifer Friedman, director of the Public Law Center at Pace, who has been spearheading the incubator project. "These are recent law graduates representing clients themselves for the first time."

Pace announced the initiative on Nov. 11. At least three other law schools have launched solo incubators during the past five years, including the City University of New York School of Law, The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and the University of Maryland School of Law. A handful of additional schools are considering adding similar programs.

The programs pair graduates with mentors and other institutional support and offer free or low-cost office space.

The financial arrangements vary, but participants tend to be paid, at least in part, with money channeled through the law school. At Pace, they will be classified as fellows and paid by the law school, although compensation levels have not yet been determined, Friedman said. Their work likely will be a combination of "low-bono" matters, in which clients pay on a sliding scale based on their income, and grant-funded legal assistance projects, she said.

The program will be housed in space on the law school campus in White Plains, N.Y., and participants will be able to work there for one or two years.

"Creating this public-interest law practice to serve our community during a time of need, and at the same time utilizing the skills of our extremely capable and socially committed recent graduates, perfectly captures what Pace Law School is all about," said Dean Michelle Simon.

Pace has already raised $100,000 from David Anthony Pope, president and chief executive officer of the Generoso Pope Foundation, to help launch the incubator. The school is continuing to raise money for the project.


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