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It's bad enough trying to pass the bar in this dear state. With a three-day exam, no reciprocity with anyone, and the exorbitant fees, plus the cost of bar review class, joining the California State bar is no picnic. Part and parcel of course is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which to be fair, is pretty much required everywhere, but it's still one more thing to add to the list.
But don't worry, current and future law students: things will get worse. The current word from the State Bar is that a few teaks to "training requirements" for incoming lawyers are on the way, ones that will make things more difficult for law schools, law students, and young cash-strapped lawyers looking to tap into the Golden State's job market.
According to the Cal Bar Journal, the current proposal 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.
But, the proposal isn't final yet: it still has to be approved by the Board of Trustees and either the California Supreme Court or Legislature. This means the plan may not be in effect for 2015, as the "Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform Phase II" was originally hoping, though it does seem likely to happen eventually.
Because casebooks aren't clients. Because graduates graduate with no idea whatsoever on how to actually help people.
A practical education requirement would force schools to develop lawyers, not test-takers. Pro bono work targets the access to justice problem while simultaneously training new lawyers on how to handle real life clients. It's win-win!
Okay, you want practically trained lawyers. We get it. But why in the golden-tinted, traffic-ridden hell (that's California!) does this have to be done on a state level?
As the Bar Journal article notes, the ABA is already considering a 6-unit practical training requirement [PDF]. California would more than double that, which means any kid going to school in a different state (we're assuming Cal. schools would immediately adapt) would have to account for the requirement while in school if they want to have a chance at practicing here. Or, they can pass a bar in another state and work there for a year -- let's hope they don't get any surprise job offers in California.
Why not just stick with a uniform nationwide requirement so that recent graduates can, I don't know, apply everywhere, and hope that someone, anyone, just says "yes." Plus, there's the completely rational argument that "practice ready" is a delusional fantasy.
And that 50 hours of pro bono/reduced fee work -- really? Students, many of whom are broke, indebted, and unemployed, now get to make the rest of the state bar feel warm and fuzzy by filling up the pro bono stat sheets. Hmmm.
Why not make this a requirement for those who, say, have jobs and experience? What's better for a low-income individual: a lawyer who has no idea what the heck he is doing, other than fifteen units of mandated clinical work, or someone who has been practicing for two decades?
Yeah, that's the solution: stick the poor folks with desperate, broke, inexperienced counsel. That'll solve the access to justice problem. And for those broke graduates, let's see: practice-based classes in school, bar review, bar exam, pro bono work, front-loaded MCLE requirements while searching for a job, did you remember the MPRE ... oh wait, then you get paid. Meanwhile, you have $150,000 worth of student loan debt hovering over your head.
Awesome. We're sure that everyone, young and old, wants to help those who cannot afford legal representation, but why do the mandates always fall on recent grads, who themselves are struggling?
This may be a well-intentioned plan to try to produce young attorneys who know how to practice law, but isn't the best way to accomplish that simply by finding them jobs? And maybe adopting a pro bono requirement for renewing one's license?
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