Tuesday, June 11, 2013

California considers proposal to mandate skills training for admission to the bar

[Note - this post was updated on 6/13 to reflect the Task Force's June 11, 2013 "Phase 1 Final Report"].  A task force created by the California Bar to examine possible reforms to admission requirements has filed its "final" report recommending that a mandatory "pre-admission skills program" be adopted by the California Supreme Court.  If adopted, it would require law schools to provide 15 units of course work in practical skills training spread over three years (as an alternative, candidates for admission to the California Bar would have to participate in an approved externship or comparable program).  Obviously, this is big news for both California law schools as well as everyone else in legal ed. since as goes California, so goes the nation (at least sometimes).

Below are the pertinent details of the task force's "final" recommendations.  You can access its full report here.

• Pre-admission: A competency skills training requirement fulfilled prior to admission to practice. There would be two routes for fulfillment of this pre-admission competency skills training requirement: (a) at any time in law school, a candidate for admission must have taken at least 15 units of course work that is designed to develop law practice competencies, and (b) in lieu of some or all of the 15 units of 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 skills 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; and,

• Post-admission: 10 additional hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (“MCLE”) courses for new lawyers, over and above the required MCLE hours for all active members of the Bar, specifically focused on law practice competency skills training. Alternatively, credit towards these hours would be available for participation in mentoring programs.

With respect to when and where within the curriculum California law schools will have to provide mandatory skills training, here's what the task force said: 

Why 15 units and when must those units be taken while in law school? We make no pretense to having drawn upon a rigorous formula for measuring what should count as substantial. We simply took as a rule of thumb that, in a traditional law school model, where all or most of the first year is devoted to doctrinal courses, 25% of the final two years of school would be devoted to experiential learning in clinics, externships, and skills courses. But the timing of when these units must be earned is secondary. In many law schools, where competency skills training is included in the traditional first year doctrinal courses offerings, the 15 units might spread over all three years. Because we do not wish to restrict the manner in which schools may offer courses that will meet the objectives we have in mind, the 15 units of pre-admission competency skills coursework may be earned by students at any point while in law school.


You can continue to read the task force's full report here.

A big hat tip and thank you to Professor Robert Kuehn.



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