Tuesday, August 25, 2015
From Monday's National Law Journal:
Whether the State Bar of California’s plan to require new attorneys to complete at least 15-credits of practical skills courses in law school is unduly restrictive or a needed step to ensure they have some real-world competencies depends on whom you ask—even within the same organization.
The Association of American Law Schools is split over the bar’s proposal, with a coalition of law school deans in opposition and a group of clinical professors in favor.
The executive committee of the association’s Section of Clinical Legal Education last week released a statement supporting the plan to add the experiential learning requirement for bar admissions, saying it “encourages the integration of 21st century lawyering skills into the core of legal education, presents a significant opportunity to better prepare students to meet the demands of clients upon admission to the bar.” The section counts hundreds of clinical professors as members.
In July, however, the AALS’s Deans Steering Committee—composed of 15 deans from law schools across the country— wrote to the bar to warn that the plan would create a confusing patchwork of state requirements, stifle innovation and limit the flexibility students have in choosing law classes. The deans requested that the bar hold off on implementing new requirements until educators can assess a new American Bar Association rule requiring that graduates complete at least six credit hours of hands-on classes.
California bar officials signed off on the plan in November but are awaiting approval from the California Supreme Court and state legislature. Under the plan, clinics, externships, clerkships, and legal work in a law office would count toward the 15-credit requirement. Doctrinal courses would partially count if they incorporate skills such as drafting and negotiating. The proposal also calls for new lawyers to complete at least 50 hours of pro bono or reduced-fee services while in law school or during their first year of practice, and undergo 10 hours of continuing legal education or bar-sponsored mentorship in their first year.
But the 15-credit experiential learning requirement has generated the most debate and disagreement within the legal academy.
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