Letters to the Editor

MCLE tracking tool has potential to save time, money

Allowing members to track their MCLE hours on the State Bar website is a great idea. The State Bar should also permit members to scan and upload copies of their certificates. This would simplify the auditing process. Members could gather the proof certificates, scan them, and supply them to the auditor via an auditing portal which would look nearly identical to the webpage we will use for tracking in real time. That would save our already burdened and overworked State Bar staff ensuring that all members comply with MCLE requirements. I also hope that the new tracking system will allow members to receive email notification after each entry to show us what has been accomplished to date, what needs to be done, and the deadline. I believe that these suggestions would be easy to implement into the software and would reduce costs incurred at our State Bar to help members comply.

Timothy Lee Davis
San Diego

Heed Witkin’s advice on practical skills training

I read Amy Yarbrough’s article on urging law schools to require practical skills training.

I recall when Bernie Witkin came to UC Davis School of Law to talk about the legal education. His view was precisely the opposite of the proposed focus on practical skills training. He believed attorneys could get trained to pass the bar in less than three years and I seem to recall that he was involved in early bar review courses. He wanted the remainder of the time in law school, a year or year and a half, to be dedicated to developing the law, to improving the law, to understanding the law. 

Instead, the practical skills training approach is in the business direction, rather than the direction of a deeper understanding of the law. The latter approach is what law schools do best. The other approaches being considered, such as early MCLE, could meet the need for practical and business skills. Other approaches would also accomplish this perceived need without downgrading the law schools: (1) law schools could recruit and admit more students with business and economics backgrounds, or (2) private law firms could recruit and pay for students to become JD/MBA graduates with the MBA programs taking on the business aspects of the law profession.

Witkin was a brilliant advocate for the legal profession and his advice needs to be part of the conversation.

Charlie A. Klinge
Bellevue, Wash.

Practitioners, not law schools, should bear burden of practical training

As a long-time practitioner and relatively new dean, I strongly question the wisdom and viability of the new and misnamed “practical skill training proposal.”

I do so primarily on two grounds. First, any such requirement will likely add to the costs and time spent on legal training prior to bar admission, which are already too expensive and too long. Second, mentoring (which appears to be the real issue of concern) is far better done by actual practitioners in the real world of practice, rather than in law schools, even with our extensive clinical programs, where students certainly do learn valuable practice skills.

The appropriate response to a situation described, where “clients are no longer willing to pay for young lawyers to get on-the-job training at their law firms,” is not to impose those training costs on law schools but on the law firms themselves, where such training was once (and should again be) effectively done at partners’ time and expense.

In my 20-year experience as a business lawyer, I found that associates got their most valuable training by being part of a deal or client team.  As a partner, what I expected law schools to produce were dedicated professionals with a strong foundation in the law and legal reasoning and excellent research and writing skills, not practice-ready M&A or corporate finance and securities experts. The investment I made in mentoring those lawyers was worth every hour of time that I did not record or that I wrote off and did not bill to my clients.

I urge Dean Marshall and other academic members of the Task Force to consider the ever-increasing profits of law firms in contrast to the current financial situation of law schools, and even more in relation to the increasing debt burdens being imposed on our students, in considering where to allocate the responsibility for such mentoring. I also urge the practitioners on the Task Force to consider their own obligations for, as well as the benefits of, taking on the responsibility of mentoring their new lawyers after they have been hired.

Stephen C. Ferruolo
Dean and Professor of Law
University of San Diego School of Law

Don’t burden young attorneys with post-exam requirements

Concerning Amy Yarbrough's article about pre-admission skill training, I agree with a caveat that new attorneys should not be penalized in earning money after passing the bar exam.  Who will pay their bills? The State Bar won't. No pro-bono requirement pre-admittance either.

If these aspirants are "unqualified" to begin their practice immediately what makes anyone think they can accomplish successful pro bono activities without committing malpractice? Or, will the bar immunize these candidates so further economic damage does not befall them? The suggestions in the article are not well thought out by those ivory tower "academics” that make these pie-in-the sky suggestions. They should simply be ignored.

However, the suggestion that such courses be taught in law school has great merit. It will not prolong course study and will not hamper anyone economically. That makes excellent sense. Also, why not a mentor program for brand new sole practitioners? Local bar associations and volunteer attorneys would work well in this endeavor.

Robert Daumiller
Crossville, Tenn.

 

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