Friday, December 20, 2013

Wisconsin Bar Association task force report on challenges facing new lawyers

The Wisconsin Bar Association created a task force last year to study the challenges facing new law grads in that state. It recently presented its full report to the State Bar Board of Governors, a summary of which is available here at the State Bar of Wisconsin homepage.  The task force acknowledged that it had initially underestimated the degree to which new law grads are struggling to find gainful employment as well as pay off their student loans.  “Anecdotally, we all know that new lawyers are having difficulty coming out of law school with student debt and finding jobs, or finding jobs that pay enough to service the debt,” said board chair Sherry Coley, also a task force co-chair. “But I don’t think we really knew the extent of the problem. That was the biggest surprise for me.”

The task has made both short and long term recommendations to address the struggles of new law grads.  Among them, it recommends communicating to students the importance of taking practical skills courses during law school and then creating a "legal residency program" that gives them better on the job training once they graduate.  Other recommendations include:

In the long-run, helping new lawyers “may entail shifting certain paradigms,” the report states, and the task force recommends that the State Bar commit to this effort. The task force also notes several large-scale initiatives for leadership to consider.


One recommendation is a State Bar-sponsored law firm providing short-term apprenticeship work for recent graduates, perhaps providing legal assistance to the poor or underserved. Other large-scale initiatives include:


  • a small business incubator to help potential solo practitioners;

  • a program to help lawyers find work in rural areas;

  • a “legal residency” program that would give lawyers on-the-job training;

  • a program to help lawyers obtain temporary and project work;

  • a court clerk program, funded by law schools, where law students work as clerks in the court system to provide assistance amidst shrinking budgets;

  • reduced-rate assistance with financial and retirement planning;

These large-scale initiatives, the task force notes, would require collaboration between the State Bar, the law schools, the BBE, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the ABA, and other entities. Fixing systemic problems in the legal profession could take years.


Thus, the task force “recommends that a permanent committee of the State Bar composed of particularly qualifying individuals should be established to assist in the future the efforts to lessen the challenges facing young lawyers.”

Hat tip to Outsidethelawschoolscam.

Continue reading here.


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