Panel sorts out nuts and bolts of training rules for new
By Laura Ernde
UC Berkeley School of Law Professor Eric L. Talley requires
his students to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal. That way when they enter corporate
practice, they’ll more easily comprehend the world of business and finance in
which their clients are steeped.
Skills such as the ability to put together a spreadsheet or decipher
company financial statements are not routinely taught in law school, but can
help a corporate lawyer’s ability to serve clients, Talley told the State Bar’s Task
Force on Admissions Regulation Reform last month.
The task force chaired by former State Bar President Jon B. Streeter grappled
with the details of implementing new training requirements for lawyers in
California to better prepare them for practice. They are:
- 15 units of practice-based, experiential coursework or an
apprenticeship equivalent during law school starting in 2017
- 50 hours of legal services devoted to pro bono or modest means
clients prior to admission or in the first year of practice starting in 2016
- 10 additional MCLE (Minimum Continuing Legal Education) hours
focused on law practice competency training or participation in a bar-certified
mentoring program starting in 2015.
Talley recently surveyed transactional specialists to find
out what competencies were most important for new lawyers in that practice
area. He presented his findings March 10 to a breakout session of the task
force focused on the law school requirement.
Transactional lawyers surveyed identified document drafting,
professional ethics and fact development and analysis among the most important
skills for practice.
One key question for the task force is defining the law
school coursework that will qualify for the 15-unit requirement.
Those guidelines will have to be flexible enough to
encompass changes in the legal profession, said UC Hastings College of the Law
Professor Shauna Marshall, a member of the task force who led the breakout
session. But they shouldn't be so broad that law schools can meet the requirement
without changing their coursework.
“We are in a very dynamic state,” she said. “We cannot try
to develop a complete list. Our charge is to up the game in competencies so
[new lawyers] hit the ground running.”
Although Marshall advocated that students be required to
have real-world experiences such as a clinic or externship, a majority of the
breakout group – comprised mostly of academics – did not want to make it
mandatory, fearing the lack of job placements for students.
Two other breakout groups met the same day to hash out
details of the other two requirements for pro bono/modest means service and
extra MCLE courses.
The breakout group on pro bono/modest means discussed how
that requirement could have the dual benefit of preparing young lawyers for
practice and addressing the lack of civil legal assistance to the poor.
One option the group discussed was to define pro bono service
broadly but allow students who work with poor and modest-means clients to count
that service toward both the pro bono requirement and the law school
The dual credit option, as it was being called, would serve
as an incentive to help fill the “justice gap,” said Hernán Vera, a board
member who led that breakout group.
The requirement for 10 additional MCLE hours in the first
year of practice would most likely be self-reported, said Richard A. Frankel, a
task force member who is also on the State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners. A
system for that is already in place with the current MCLE reporting program.
The mentoring option presents some challenges in a state
like California, which admitted 6,915 lawyers into practice last year, Frankel said.
One way to accomplish it could be to start with a pilot program in cooperation
with local bar associations or State Bar sections, he said.
The next task force meeting is April 23 in Los Angeles. The
committee welcomes public comment.