May 4, 2012

A boost for clinical education in law schools.

New York is now requiring 50 hours of pro bono work for admission to the bar.
Law students in the state are able do legal work if they are supervised by law faculty or legal services groups.

According to [a NYT editorial], the measure could be controversial because it “wades into a fierce debate among lawyers over whether mandatory pro bono service is the right solution—and because it could hit the pocketbooks of young lawyers at a time when they are struggling to find jobs.”
You'd better go to a law school that will provide you with the clinics and make room on your schedule — ousting other courses you might think you need — if you want to practice law in New York.

ADDED: Actually, I think the clinics won't count for pro bono credit, because you get course credit. Law faculty will be incentivized to offer a separate pro bono option, with no course credit.

56 comments:

KJE said...

I've done clinicals in Wisconsin. I worked hard at mine, got some good experience in the Public Defender's office that I took with me to private practice when I graduated.

Some of my contemporaries also did clincials. I'm not exactly sure what they did.

I'm not saying this is a bad idea, but this could just turn out to be window dressing.

50 hours over the course of a semester? That's not a high bar.

kcom said...

Does that come with any ideological conditions? It brings to mind other stories we've seen about Education departments in schools trying to force students to work on "social justice" projects as a requirement for their degree, which seem to be little more than barely concealed Democratic party proselytizing.

traditionalguy said...

Mao's Cultural Revolution is back. We just never tried it hard enough before.

CG said...

I'm sort of shocked that no one has yet publicly objected to this requirement on Thirteenth Amendment grounds. Courts have upheld requirements for lawyers to represent indigent criminal defendants, and the like. But this is an unprecedented power grab, aiming to secure the free labor of thousands of would-be lawyers. In other words, involuntary servitude.

David said...

Has anyone ever done a serious study of clinical programs at law schools to determine their value? Hard to measure, I'm sure, but has anyone tried? Are there any standards for how such programs are to be designed?

Practical experience is one of the key developers of good lawyers. But are these programs delivering actual practical experience?

Probably it's like everything else--you get good results if you put in good effort.

Lucien said...

Good. Property management companies should set up programs so that law students can work pro bono to help them evict deadbeat tenants. The City should set up pro bono programs so that law students can work to discipline recalcitrant members of public sector unions. Fortune 500 companies should set up pro bono programs so that law students can help them challenge environmental regulations.

Once the State Bar folks see that pro bono work isn't a one-way ideological street, they won't be so keen on requiring students to work for free.

John said...

Is this indentured servitude?

Tank said...

I like the way that Lucien thinks.

Matthew Sablan said...

It doesn't sound much different than requiring an internship for a degree. As long as the state gets to be in charge of the credentials, they get to make the rules.

CG said...

An internship could be a paid internship. Here, the requirement is to work for free. The state has no right to make you give up your 5th and 13th Amendment rights as a condition of joining a profession.

Ann Althouse said...

Paid?!

The students are not only not paid, they pay us to extract this work from them.

Mitchell said...

First you pass the bar, then you have to do the pro bono, is how I read it.

Ann Althouse said...

The insiders restrict access. Keep out the competition.

It makes it much more expensive to have a law school too. Those low-cost law schools can't barge in and compete with us, the established law schools. No one who wants to be able to apply for a job in NY — where a huge chunk of the law jobs are — will want to go to a law school that doesn't have enough clinics to supply their need for this extra credential.

MadisonMan said...

@Lucien, the students have to be supervised by faculty or 'legal service groups'. I'm not sure how enthusiastically they'd embrace your good ideas.

Matthew Sablan said...

Internships also could be unpaid. (This is also more making an argument that maybe we should re-evaluate the whole bar exam, state credentialing system at its core.)

Now, it doesn't sound like a good idea, but I don't know if I'm comfortable saying that it is the same as indentured servitude. For example, do we think the same thing about high school students needing community service to graduate high schools?

rhhardin said...

You'd think pro bono would be for good people rather than for bad people, but opposites rule these days.

CG said...

In my view, an internship requirement that stipulates that the work must be uncompensated is unconstitutional.

MadisonMan said...

...and let me add: It's not about political viewpoint. It would more be about losing control.

Bryan C said...

"As long as the state gets to be in charge of the credentials, they get to make the rules."

Which is why they shouldn't be in charge of the credentials.

CG said...

Once we're discussing clinics, I should also add that, in my experience, almost all of them have a left-wing agenda. How many clincs specialize in protecting property rights, enforcing federalism, or achieving deregulation?

Bryan C said...

"For example, do we think the same thing about high school students needing community service to graduate high schools?"

Is treating highly credentialed adults as if they were slacker high-school students a good model to pursue?

FWIW, I despise those community service requirements. The students would be much better off if we got rid of it, and lowered the minimum employment age so they could gain some actual real-world experience in the precious time they're permitted outside of a classroom.

Paddy O said...

To receive a Masters of Divinity--the three year professional degree for pastoral work required by many denominations and helpful for most others--students have to do 2 years of part time internships.

The first one has to be in a church and requires a minimum of 10 hours a week for 30 weeks (in a quarter system).

The second one can either be in a church or another ministry setting such as a hospital chaplain, parachurch, or military among others. This one can also be 10 hours a week for 30 weeks, or 30 hours a week for ten weeks. Very few of these internships are paid. Plus, a student has to maintain about 12-16 units of course work each quarter in order to have any hope of graduating in 3 years.

Justin said...

The state has no right to make you give up your 5th and 13th Amendment rights as a condition of joining a profession.

You do realize that this argument has no traction, don't you?

It's like that recent case filed by PETA against Sea World claiming that some orcas' 13th Amendment rights were being violated. Maybe if they'd spent more times in clinics and less time in "Animals and the Constitution" during law school they would have had the sense not to file that ridiculous case.

My advice, based on my experience, to law students: Do at least one clinic/internship/externship per semester starting your second year. You will learn more from doing that than you will in any law school course.

Second, don't take more than one or two courses like "Animals and the Constitution" or "Women and the Law" or "Law and Literature" (that was a real class at my law school, I shit you not). I would actually advice you to take none. Those courses are really just mental masturbation for law professors. If a prospective employer scrolls down your transcript and sees that you've taken a bunch of courses like that, they will not be impressed, even if you have a high GPA.

Third, of where you're going to practice, take Federal Courts. And Corporations. If you're going to practice in New York, take Trusts & Estates, it'll make your life easier on the bar exam.

CG said...

I have no objection to a private school requiring unpaid work for educational reasons. Obviously, the government does not set the standards for graduating from divinity schools. The problem here is that it is the government that is requiring the involuntary labor as a condition of practicing a profession.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Is treating highly credentialed adults as if they were slacker high-school students a good model to pursue?"

I'd rather think of it as treating slacker high-school students like highly credentialed adults.

Peter said...

Doesn't "mandatory pro-bono" mean (idiomatically) "mandatory volunteer work"?

We know that all things are possible in law (e.g., a child can have three parents, or pi can be defined as exactly 3.14) but doesn't "pro bono" imply that the work is performed on a voluntary basis? And if so, can one still a volunteer if one is actually compelled to do the work?

CG said...

Justin, you realize, of course, that lawyers (or at least would be lawyers) are actual persons protected by the 5th and 13th Amendments, as opposed to orcas, catfish, and other non-humans.

The cases upholding court ordered representation of indigent criminal defendants are entirely distinguishable from the extraction of an estimate 500,000 hours of forced labor per year.

KJE said...

"Once we're discussing clinics, I should also add that, in my experience, almost all of them have a left-wing agenda. How many clincs specialize in protecting property rights, enforcing federalism, or achieving deregulation?"

It is ironic then, that my SPD internship did those things, but, I would also respectfully submit that my supervising attornies were all solidly in the left wing camp. Truly a dichotomy!

damikesc said...

Any business that STAYS in NY needs to STFU about how bad NY is for business.

They've been terrible for a long time. Until you leave, literally nothing will change.

They will always have the hyper rich idiots who think NYC means something and the poor who will service them.

But that cannot support millions of voters.

...on second thought, if you go elsewhere, your idiot employees will likely vote for pols who will promise to screw up your new state the same way NY screwed itself up.

Stay there. We only want you if your employees don't join you.

Does that come with any ideological conditions? It brings to mind other stories we've seen about Education departments in schools trying to force students to work on "social justice" projects as a requirement for their degree, which seem to be little more than barely concealed Democratic party proselytizing.

I wouldn't be stunned if that was the case. It's hilarious watching colleges bemoan the lack of public funding to them when they spend so much time and effort insulting the people they expect to financially support them.

The cases upholding court ordered representation of indigent criminal defendants are entirely distinguishable from the extraction of an estimate 500,000 hours of forced labor per year.

You'd think so...but if being forced to join and financially support a union doesn't run afoul of the Constitution, I doubt courts will strike this either.

PatHMV said...

Many bar associations are becoming absolutely ridiculous. They wind up being run by the same sort of self-selecting do-gooders who wind up running the ABA and other major, politically correct organizations, and wind up deciding that if they think something is a good idea, it should be imposed on everybody.

The bar association should exist, at most, to assure a minimum level of competency among lawyers. That's it. Anything else is a deviation from its proper function. If prominent lawyers want to make sure poor people or unfunded causes have legal representation, they can raise money and recruit volunteers just like every other group in our society does. It is deeply immoral to use their position as bar leaders to compel individuals to provide such services and contribute to such causes.

Matthew Sablan said...

"According to court data, 99 percent of tenants are unrepresented in eviction cases in New York City, 97 percent of parents are unrepresented in child support matters and more than 60 percent of homeowners in foreclosure cases attend the state’s mandated settlement conferences without the benefit of legal counsel."

-- This sounds to me like New York's got a severe lack of lawyers. Maybe lowering the bar (ha ha, lawyer puns) would help them get more lawyers willing to take those jobs?

"This initiative, however, is no substitute for more federal and state support of legal aid for the poor, or for other moves, like expanding law school loan-forgiveness programs to help graduates who work in legal services offices."

-- Then why not allow loan forgiveness and waive any fees for testing after X number of pro bono hours? Or, offer scholarships for it? I can think of so many better ways to encourage people to do pro-bono work than just saying "Gotta do it."

Will the 10,000 students (at 50 hours, assuming we stay in a year, that's only 50,000 student-lawyer hours or so a year) actually make a dent in the numbers the NYT is citing? I'd've been interested to see that.

CG said...

There is also a signficant slippery slpe problem here: If attorneys can be forced to work without compensation, why not, doctors, accountants, plumbers, etc.? If 50 hours is required, why not 300, or two years? Before we know it, we will be slaves to the state. No thanks.

Matthew Sablan said...

I forgot a zero. 500,000

Justin said...

Justin, you realize, of course, that lawyers (or at least would be lawyers) are actual persons protected by the 5th and 13th Amendments.

Yes of course. But no one is forcing you to do anything here. You're making a choice to enter the legal profession knowing that one of the hurdles will be 50 hours of pro bono work (which is nothing). I take it you're in law school currently?

Practicing law is a privilege, not a right. The state is granting you a license and can place a myriad of conditions on that if it wants to. There are obvious limits to that, but I don't think this comes even remotely close to being one of them.

CG said...

Justin, the right to earn a living is a right, not a gift from the state. And anyway, "privileges" are also protected by the 14th Amendment (i.e., the Privileges and Immunities Clause).

Justin said...

This sounds to me like New York's got a severe lack of lawyers.

Truste me when I tell you that this is not the case. We have way too many. And the law schools just keep turning them out, only to wind up employing students who have just graduated so they can artificially inflate their employment statistics. Tenants, etc. are underrepresented because they can't afford representation and non-profit legal services organizations are already employing as many people as they can given their budget constraints. There are plenty of out of work lawyers in NY who would take low paying jobs representing tenants, etc. if those jobs existed.

There's another big firm on the brink of going down the shitter in NYC. That will result in another 1,000 or so out of work attorneys.

The profession is really in crisis, but the ABA and the law schools don't really seem to care.

rhhardin said...

You can't have a clinic if nobody is lying down.

Justin said...

the right to earn a living is a right, not a gift from the state.

There is no right to earn a living as a lawyer. If you can't satisfy the requirements for the license, you can't be a lawyer. This is not an unconstitutional condition.

I'd bet that if you filed a lawsuit on this basis, the answer you will get from the court will be: If you don't like it, don't be a lawyer.

AllieOop said...

So if CG's dream comes true and mandatory unpaid clinicals become unconstitutional, nurses and doctors will graduate from nursing and med schools with no "hands on" experience, scary.

So would it be unconstitutional only for some professions, but not others?

Matthew Sablan said...

How much would we have to drive down the cost of lawyers to put a dent in the unrepresented numbers?

jeff said...

"Practicing law is a privilege, not a right. The state is granting you a license and can place a myriad of conditions on that if it wants to. There are obvious limits to that, but I don't think this comes even remotely close to being one of them."

Which would be the same for plumbers, electricians, cab drivers, beauticians, engineers, architects, the list is endless. Where do I go for my free services that you think the state has the authorization to mandate?

Matthew Sablan said...

Alternatively, how much would we have to simplify the law to reduce the need for lawyers for the more routine matters like evictions?

Justin said...

Which would be the same for plumbers, electricians, cab drivers, beauticians, engineers, architects, the list is endless. Where do I go for my free services that you think the state has the authorization to mandate?

You can go to a beauty school for a free haircut in a lot of places. If you're indigent and need legal assistance, you can get free legal services in a lot of places, especially if you have a legitimate case.

Take the example of nurses, which AllieOop raised. Nurses take clinicals all through nursing school -- they work for no pay. Sometimes cleaning bedpans.

Would you really want nurses to come out of nursing school with no real experience? That's what's driving this, and it's a good thing. It's especially rampant at top tier schools. I have seen so many attorneys come out of those places with no experience other than a summer of fucking around at a big firm and their "Law and X" courses. They are often incredibly clueless despite their pedigree.

I would agree that it would have been better if the NYSB had added a requirement for 50 hours of clinical work (which can be paid or unpaid) instead of what they've done. But I don't think you're going to find a judge that will say what they've done is unconstitutional.

Also, remember that for unpaid internships/externships, you get course credits. So it's not as if you're working for nothing.

CG said...

I see now that Richard Epstein has objected to these new requirements (but without mentioning the 13th Amendment, etc.): http://ricochet.com/main-feed/Mandatory-Service-as-an-Abuse-of-Regulatory-Power

Justin said...

There is something to Epstein's point that this requirement results in an ideological imbalance. That should probably be addressed (the solution is 50 hours of clinical OR pro bono work -- wouldn't shock me if that happens).

Still, I don't think this is indentured servitude. You're more likely to see a compelled speech argument, I think.

Paddy O said...

"Obviously, the government does not set the standards for graduating from divinity schools. The problem here is that it is the government that is requiring the involuntary labor as a condition of practicing a profession."

Accrediting agencies set the standard, so it's not really a matter of private control. Also, I could add "student teaching" that is required for education students at many levels. How much on the job work do doctors while in Medical School A lot!

Having students do unpaid work as part of their educational training is pretty common in many fields. Why should lawyers alone have to learn on the job, after school? That doesn't seem like that's really professional training at all.

mikee said...

Matthew Stablan: Move to Texas if you want to do your own evictions. It is incredibly easy here, requiring a total of 3 week's time and a posted bond of 2 month's rent, along with court costs of about $200.

I pity the landlord who needs a lawyer to perform an eviction. That is like getting robbed, then having to pay the DA to prosecute the criminal.

Matthew Sablan said...

Mikee: I think it is the tenants who are going unrepresented and in need, not the landlords.

Matthew Sablan said...

"That is like getting robbed, then having to pay the DA to prosecute the criminal."

-- So, it's like paying your taxes (or do district attorneys salaries not come from the general fund)?

MadisonMan said...

I think it is the tenants who are going unrepresented and in need, not the landlords.

Who made the laws regarding evictions so difficult to understand that you need a lawyer to understand them? Lawyers.

But I'm sure it's protecting the evictees if they want to pay a lawyer to protect them.

This smells like a conflict of interest to me.

Amartel said...

Matthew, the laws in CA highly favor tenants who are represented so lawyers go looking for them. The attorney's fees are often the highest item of damages, by far. Eureka! Forward California!

Michael Haz said...

Pro bono? As in "a student will need to borrow more money to attend law school in order to provide legal services to persons who cannot themselves afford a lawyer?"

Congratulations on yet another Socialist redistribution, this time before tht aspiring lawyeer has had an opportunity to earn an income.

JimMuy said...

When you have a public law school like Michigan charging some $34,000 a year and Texas charging about the same, why is it the fault of the lawyers that the poor can't afford a lawyer?
It's the people who make these rules, the gatekeepers, that are the problem, not the lawyers.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Well, there's the Innocent Project at the UW Law School. But, as Ann could tell you, it has a checkered past.

John Lynch said...

50 hours doesn't seem like a lot. Amy I missing something?

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