As with the collapse of the justice system that I described in previous sections of this series, and the problems in the training of lawyers that I exposed in my previous postI want to suggest two sets of responses to the crisis in the training of lawyers.
The first group is designed so that our current system and the people who depend on it remain as is for the next few years. The second, featured in my later post, aims to outline a new and better system to replace the one that is falling apart.
In the short term, here are seven suggestions for how we can help law schools, regulators, and law firms overcome this lawyer training crisis.
1. Goodbye LSAT
Law schools should stop using the LSAT as part of their candidate evaluation system. Many people will not be able to take the LSAT this year, and the conditions for those who do will be uneven; These two facts alone are reason enough to follow this approach. Law schools can continue to use bachelor's grades, work experience, and personal qualities to decide who to admit. But let's be honest: The LSAT is a elitist artifact anyway. Tests only one small number of skills y attributes that lawyers need, and it has no correlation with one's future success as a lawyer.
2. Do the online conferences right
For the duration of physical distancing, schools should arrange for all lectures to be videotaped and (along with all lecture notes) uploaded online, so that students can access them asynchronously, rather than doing have everyone crowd into a Zoom session. Such lectures should be done at least semi-professionally, with good audio, lighting, and framing. Each conference should be 20-30 minutes maximum. The designated teacher does not have to dictate every session. We have to pass from 'remote teaching' to learning in line.
3. Adapt student participation
Create online message boards with questions for students to answer and discuss with each other; Active or high-value contribution to these discussions would improve a student's final evaluation. Increase the number of tasks students must complete and encourage multimedia responses (video or podcast instead of or in addition to a written presentation). Assign more work in groups, using online collaboration platforms (for example, Google Docs); If the isolation is lifted, these group projects can be turned in person.
4. Maintain the old system of: those who fail the course / those who pass the course / and those who pass with honors
Let's get real for a moment. Almost no one fails a law school course or doesn't graduate, so we're really talking about Pass / Pass with Honors. In practical terms, that is absolutely no different from "Consonant / Vowel." I think most teachers would agree that they could divide their students into "those who did the work and learned the concepts" and "those who really stood out as brilliant, hard-working, and more effective than the rest." Why do we need finer distinctions? Law school is not the third grade; If we go to law school we have already passed the stage of encouraging children to make an effort and do the best they can. In law school we are developing professionals to meet the needs of others, in that sense we must develop a system that recognizes this reality.
5. Forget the bar exam
This is both the easiest and most difficult advice. Easier, because the bar exam is little more than "An excellent barrier to entry and a magnificent ritual for newbies" in the words of Joan Howarth; "It tests the ability to take exams, not the ability to practice law," added Allen Mendenhall. It is archaic, discriminatory, and a loss of weather. But also more difficult, because the profession simply cannot fail to take the exam, partly by habit, partly out of fear that law school won't prepare students for practice, and partly because of pressure from the test-prep industry. The pandemic has made getting tested for the bar almost impossible; and I think we should take this as a sign, and as an opportunity.
6. Issue laws that allow obtaining the license to practice as a lawyer that are more "progressive"
To appease advocates of bar exams, and as a step toward a better licensing system in the future, all graduates who were unable to take the exam should be given conditional admissions to practice with "progressive" law licenses that allow the lawyer to practice but place limitations on, for example, the types of actionable legal advice that can be provided to individuals. Lawyers holding progressive licenses would amount to "interns" who have graduated from medical school but have not yet achieved full "medical" status. Passing a future bar exam (or higher procedure; see next post) would be enough to convert these "attorney training permits" into licenses to fully practice law. (Also take a look at the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System's discussions and reflections on new options licensing of lawyers to practice law and the evaluation of legal skills.)
7. Encourage the hiring of new lawyers
Governments should encourage law firms to continue to hire new law graduates by making the salaries paid to these new lawyers fully tax deductible for the duration of the crisis. Large companies can go further and split the costs (and tax benefits) of hiring new attorneys with corporate clients, where new hires can spend more than half their time on that job. Governments must also order suspension of repayments on all student loans for this group of graduates, and must issue partial loan forgiveness for graduates entering public service or moving to smaller or rural locations to practice law. .
These are seven short-term steps that all participants in the attorney training process can implement now and over the next 18-24 months to help overcome this crisis. But these measures are by nature temporary, or at best transitory, as we begin to shift to a new law training regime.
Just as we are buying time by keeping the injured judicial system running until we can build better justice institutions and procedures, so too the above measures will help maintain the "lawyer pipeline" and manage things during this emergency while we develop something better to replace it. That's what I'll share in the next post in this series.
*The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators of The Crypto Legal blog or the Lawgic Tec association.