Board asks for next steps in competency training plan
By Amy Yarbrough
With the goal of better preparing new
lawyers to enter the profession, the State Bar’s Board of Trustees gave
the go-ahead last month to new competency training
requirements as well as a committee that will decide how to carry them out.
Chaired by former State Bar
President Jon Streeter, the new committee will develop a timeline and plan for
implementing the three recommendations – competency training for new
lawyers, a pro bono legal services requirement and additional Minimum Continuing
Legal Education (MCLE) hours.
Streeter, who also chaired the task
force that developed the new
training requirements, told trustees prior to their Oct. 12 vote that the
proposal dates back to 2011 and addresses the fact that more and more students
coming out of law school have been unable to find a job. The Internet has made
it easier for them to start solo practices, but they often lack mentors or
fundamental knowledge, such as budgeting or running a law practice.
The competency training
proposal calls for 15 units of practice-based, experiential course work or an
apprenticeship equivalent during law school, 50 hours of legal services devoted
to pro bono or modest means clients prior to admission or in the first two
years of practice and 10 additional MCLE hours focused on law practice
competency training. Under the current plan, the implementation committee would
develop a roadmap to phase in the MCLE hours starting in 2015, the pro bono or
modest means requirement in 2016 and the law school competency training in
“I must say in the course of what we have done there has
been overwhelming support,” Streeter told trustees at their Oct. 12 meeting. But
some people still have reservations about the proposal.
One concern is that implementing the new requirement will
increase the already staggering cost of a legal education.
In one of roughly 30 letters the State Bar received
commenting on the proposal, Pepperdine Law School student Levi Lesches wrote
that it is “inherently injust” to require 50 hours of pro bono service.
“The cards are stacked so heavily against a legal education
turning into a rewarding career, whether financially or emotionally, that
merely suggesting additional bar passage requirements is akin to walking over
to a soldier who is laying mortally wounded on a battlefield and asking him to
do some good for his country,” Lesches wrote in a Sept. 4 letter to the board. “With
the amount of unpaid hours law students already put in, the dismal career
opportunities awaiting them at the end, it is plain wrong, if not offensive, to
place restraints on those sparse opportunities that exist for law students to
earn money while in school.”
Streeter cited a study done by commenter Robert R. Kuehn, associate dean of clinical
education at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, which found,
among other things, that 90 percent of the American Bar Association-accredited
law schools in California already have the capacity to ensure that their
students can graduate with clinical education experience.
Streeter called the recommendations, “a fairly gentle nudge
toward what law schools should be doing” to add value.
“What we are doing here in California has the attention of
the entire country,” he added. “I think this is something you will be proud to
be associated with in the future.”