Panel getting closer to sending new training requirements
to Board of Trustees
By Laura Ernde
A State Bar task force is in the home stretch of developing
a plan to implement sweeping new training requirements for incoming lawyers.
The proposed elements would include 15 units of practice-based
competency training in law school, 50 hours of pro bono or reduced fee legal
services during and after law school and 10 hours of competency training MCLE
(Minimum Continuing Legal Education) in the first year of practice.
The 30-member Task
Force on Admissions Regulation Reform Phase II has held six public meetings
since December to determine exactly how the recommendations would be put in
place. On June 11, Chairman Jon B. Streeter said the panel hopes to send a draft to the
Board of Trustees by September, although he noted the timeline could be
extended if necessary.
The plan requires not only board approval, but also proposed
changes to rules and regulations that must go to the California Supreme Court or
the Legislature. That makes it difficult to predict when any new rules would go
into effect. The group originally hoped to phase in the requirements starting
in 2015 with the new MCLE courses, but Streeter said the timeline could change.
He added that the 15-unit requirement would not be imposed on students who have
already begun law school.
Also, the panel appeared likely
to exempt from the 15-unit requirement prospective bar members who have practiced
full-time in other states for at least one year, as well as foreign lawyers who
earn a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in the United States as opposed to a Juris
Academics on the task force said
the new requirements will force law schools to change their curriculum to
include more emphasis on putting legal concepts into practice.
“You shouldn’t underestimate what
change this is going to bring,” said task force member UC Berkeley School of
Law Associate Dean Charles D. Weisselberg, who developed the school’s clinical
The American Bar Association is
also moving toward requiring six units of practical training. Courses that
qualify for the ABA practical skills requirement would also satisfy California’s
The plan will include a description
of the types of coursework that would qualify for the competency skills credit.
The plan should be detailed enough to make it clear what is expected, but not
so strict that it wouldn’t give law schools the flexibility to be creative,
“The innovation is going to come
from the law schools,” he said. “It will be a trust but verify model, just like
Although some law schools have
expressed concern about the cost of complying with the new requirements, the
task force heard from a Washington University School of Law professor who said
there is no
statistical link between the quantity of clinical courses at law schools
and the cost of tuition.
The task force is scheduled to meet
again July 28.
In addition to the admissions task
force, the trustees have created the Discipline
Standards Task Force and the Civil
Justice Strategies Task Force to make recommendations to the board.
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