Tuesday, June 26, 2007

An idea

One of the problems I see in law is the number of people who graduate from law school, pass the bar, and then hang out a shingle, while really not knowing much about the actual practice of law. I'm sure I'm not the first person to have such concerns, but I have this blog, so I can write about it here from my perspective.

I do not want to go into sole practitionership, at least, not now. I want to get a job with a law firm - a job where I can learn what it's like to actually lawyer - to have to meet deadlines, to write, to brief, to argue, what motions need to be filed when, which clients to accept and which to reject, etc. Then, after I've gotten some experience doing that, I would like to maybe look into starting my own firm - take my knowledge, and go into business myself.

Part of me thinks that there is a way around this issue - the country is hurting for public defenders - attorneys for the indigent. These people often end up with poor representation, or no representation because the public defenders are painfully overworked. My solution? Pass a law in the state requiring that after passing the bar, baby lawyers are required to work in the public defender's office (or some other type of agency) where they will learn how to be a lawyer while getting paid - practical work doing what they've been training to do.

I don't see this as any different, really, than a residency requirement for doctors. Yes, the pay would stink, and yes, the hours would be bad, but it would alleviate a lot of the congestion for public defenders and the like, and provide invaluable experience from attorneys (there'd have to be some sort of supervision) on how to ply the trade - before moving on to private practice or big firms.

There are sure to be hundreds of reasons why this can't work, but I wonder - what do you think?


Anonymous said...

Well, I think that the obvious first issue would be that many people who hang a shingle do so as Civil or Family attorneys. Although there at ADL's appointed in Family, Guardianship & Probate proceedings, not any in Civil.

I think that many of the peeps we graduated with have no real interest in Criminal Law.

In Houston/Harris County the system is an appointment based system, where you have to get on a list to be appointed. You have to have certian qualifications and experience to get on the list (based on the type of case, felony, misde, capital, etc.). The pay is very very very poor for appointments-- not even living wage (yes, coming from someone in public interest!). And through appointments there would be less of an opportunity to learn from others, as you suggest.

I think that with a PDP, this would be great. However, in jurisdictions where there are PDP programs, they are HIGHLY sought after because of the experience & people actually wanting to do public interest work.


Cassie said...

I think it sounds good.

I'm finally back online... for now.

Anonymous said...

You know this sounds like a good idea. Only problem is funding it. Maybe there should be a lawyer's tax. A percentage of each judgement won, when collected. Doesn't need to be a large percentage 5 - 10 %.

One big problem is that low income/no income people cannot afford Civil lawyers either. Make the public defender provide in court services for criminals and free advice and counsel for civil cases.

Good plan. When you become Govenor you can implement it.


Love and Kisses to Kirsten and the kids.

Steve said...

I agree that it would have to be more widespread than just the public defender's office, but there could be a tie-in to other practice areas - a legal aid clinic for baby lawyers to work in civil, commercial (maybe small business), and other areas of law - to provide the basic skills to attorneys in all practice areas - while actually practicing law.

As for funding - there could be a governmental grant to the program, to help provide the necessary funds.

There'd have to be standards as to what type of clients to accept, or perhaps some sliding scale for charges, but, the idea has merit, I think...