There is much demand for lawyers who can begin practice with well-honed skills. While law schools such as UC Hastings offer excellent in-house clinical programs and externships, semester-long experiences are of necessity limited in the level of skill that they can build. National media attention during the past several years has raised the question whether attorneys are being properly trained to begin law practice upon graduation. Most notably, the New York Times published a series of articles, and even an editorial, calling attention to the lack of practical training in law schools and the challenging job market facing new graduates. The State Bar of California has recently set up a task force to inquire into whether its admissions requirements should be changed to require a practical skills component to legal education.
The LfA program provides law schools with the opportunity to provide some of their students an in-depth practical experience that will result in new lawyers who are highly trained and highly competitive in today’s market. The LfA model is fully compatible with ABA accreditation requirements.
Why can't law schools do this alone?
Law schools can implement a program like that of LfA on their own, but there are significant benefits to a national program. A "branded" model needs no explanation for legal employers and prospective student participants to understand. In addition, once multiple schools become involved and there is a critical mass of LfA Fellows, lawyers who have benefited from the program and work at eligible sites are likely to be willing supervisors/mentors to new Fellows, thus creating a supportive community beyond one's own law school. Former Fellows will appreciate the value of the training, and encourage the employment of Fellows at their workplaces. Best practices for supervision and training of Fellows can be tested and shared easily through LfA. A national program with many participant schools could also offer flexibility in faculty supervision (through law school consortia in metropolitan areas), cooperative/shared development of curriculum materials, and some flexibility as well in geographic placements. When Fellows are in their post-bar work year, and paid, they can be on LfA's payroll: there are economies of scale in handling employee paperwork and other administrative requirements, and no complications from law school (or work site) pension and other benefit plans; LfA can obtain a group health-care plan for Fellows. In addition, donors and foundations are likely to be more willing to support the development of innovation in legal education and legal service on a national level than at a single law school. Law schools that are interested in participating in the LfA program should contact us for additional information.