California Bar Journal
CBJ - June 2012 #01.
Task force explores need for practical skills training
The California LawyerJune 2012Task force explores need for practical skills trainingBy Amy YarbroughStaff WriterConcerned that law school students aren't learning the nuts and bolts of lawyering, the State Bar has assembled a group to study whether practical skills training should become a condition of practicing law in California.
The new Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform will consider whether to adopt a practical skills training requirement for being admitted to practice law and, if so, how long that training should be and what it would entail. The task force plans to hold the first of three hearings on the issue June 11 and release its recommendations before the end of 2013. Any change would require California Supreme Court approval.
State Bar President Jon Streeter, who chairs the 21-member group, said the idea grew out of discussions at a Board of Trustees retreat in January that dealt with the State Bar's overall goal of protecting the public and the fact that abysmal job prospects, coupled with huge debt, have been forcing many law school graduates to strike out on their own.
Streeter noted that many fundamental skills such as drafting client engagement letters aren't taught in lecture halls, but rather learned on the job by observing other lawyers.
"Law schools do a great job and, for the most part, have always done a great job of teaching law as doctrine," Streeter said. "But that is very different than the subtle and very specific skill set one needs to interact with clients on a day-to-day basis."
Some law school administrators, however, are skeptical about the State Bar's plans.
Proposal gets chilly reception from some in academia
Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford Law School, said he agrees that law school students need to learn practical skills, but called the State Bar's actions "premature" considering the number of practical skills courses already being offered or developed.
"It will become political," he said of the discussions around a new training requirement. "If things were really bad and there was no movement, it might be a different thing."
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