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Panel outlines plan to amend rules for attorney training

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

Members of a newly reconstituted task force began developing an action plan last month to put in place additional training requirements for getting a law license.

Over the next nine months, the 30-member Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform Phase II will break up into three working groups focused on implementing each of the three recommendations that came out of the first phase of the task force.

The recommendations call for:

  • 15 units of practice-based, experiential course work 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.

Former State Bar President Jon B. Streeter, who led the first phase, chairs the task force comprised of attorneys, judges, academics and pro bono directors charged with putting together a proposal by the State Bar Annual Meeting in September. He acknowledged the timeline is aggressive and said it is subject to change. The implementation dates could also change, especially if they involve new rules requiring either Supreme Court approval or legislative action, he said.

At its first meeting on Dec. 16, Streeter presided over the meeting and was flanked by Executive Director/CEO Joseph Dunn, State Bar President Luis J. Rodriguez and former President Patrick M. Kelly.

“We literally have the full commitment of the top level leadership of the State Bar,” said Streeter, who kicked off the process by summarizing the work to date for those members who weren’t involved in coming up with the recommendations.

Streeter noted that the American Bar Association’s law school accreditation committee is now looking at new standards that track the task force’s proposed classroom requirements.

“What we do in California matters,” he said.

Streeter also urged the group to remain sensitive to the cost of implementation.

Rodriguez said the work will be difficult and the proposal may not be popular with everyone. But he called it a “monumental step” toward meeting the needs of clients.

“It will change the face of our profession nationally,” Rodriguez said. “I feel extremely proud and excited.”

All of the group’s meetings are public and those who are interested in attending may sign up for email notification on the task force website.