It’s a standard trope in any discussion of legal education that law students are not prepared to practice law immediately after graduation. While efforts are being made by some law schools to change their curriculums to graduate “practice ready” students, the great majority of “lawyer training” (as opposed to “legal education”) occurs in an attorney’s first few years of practice. Formal, informal, in-house and external…new lawyer training takes many forms and has many contributors. This month’s CBA Futures twitter chat is going to talk about them all.
As an American, I’ve been fascinated with the Canadian articling system. A common complaint in the U.S. is that it’s possible to graduate from law school without having ever set foot in courtroom or law office. The articling system initially seems to be an excellent solution to this problem. However, as I looked into it, I see that there are many complaints, including the recent fee hike in Ontario and the fact that there are more graduates than articling spots. And then there’s the question of what happens to students in the middle of their articling process if their employer dissolves, such as in the case of Heenan Blaikie.
Down here we are trying a similar solution called “incubators.” The first one started a decade ago, but with the increasing criticisms of legal education, law schools are looking to these as an answer. Incubators are not mandatory, but they allow for new law graduates to gain practice experience in a supervised environment – often for a price. Another very recent development is that the New York State judiciary announced the creation of the Pro Bono Scholars program. Law students will be able to take the bar exam in February and then spend their final semester performing 500 hours of pro-bono work.
And then there’s the more incremental educational experiences – CLEs. The formal education world has recently been rocked by MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. These courses have many shapes and formats, but they most often exhibit characteristics that are very different of most CLE offerings – they are free, entirely online and are self-credentialing. Could MOOCLEs be in our future?
For further reading on these topics, check the links below. We’ll be discussing them on twitter Wednesday, February 26 at 12 noon EST. Search the hashtag #cbafutureschat to follow along and participate.
Canadian Lawyer Magazine, “Ontario licensing fees nearly double to almost $5,000”
Canadian Lawyer Magazine, “Heenan articling students forced to find new placements”
ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, “Incubator/Residency Program Profiles”
New York Times, “The Year of the MOOC”