Law schools and other legal education providers should be encouraged to develop "practice-ready lawyers," declares a resolution sponsored by the New York State Bar Association and approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) at its annual meeting in Toronto.
"Practicing law requires mastery of legal knowledge and legal skills. Becoming a practice-ready attorney begins in law school and continues throughout an attorney's career," said State Bar President Vincent E. Doyle III. "Legal educators, including continuing legal education (CLE) providers and employers, must look outside the classroom and focus on real world opportunities to train men and women to be better practitioners."
The resolution calls on the ABA to urge "that the legal education providers focus on making future lawyers practice-ready by enhancing clinical work and supervised activities such as meeting with clients inside and outside the clinical setting and in court, and developing further capstone courses."
Taken in the final year of law school, capstone courses are designed to reflect real-world scenarios that integrate legal doctrine, skills and theory. They include significant writing, clinics and other practice exercises.
In the resolution, the ABA is urged "to take steps to assure that law schools, law firms, (continuing legal education) providers, and others concerned with professional development provide the knowledge, skills and values that are required of the successful modern lawyer."
Issues raised in the State Bar's resolution can be traced back to the ABA's 1992 groundbreaking "MacCrate Report" chaired by Robert MacCrate, former president of both the ABA and New York State Bar Association. That report played a key role in moving law schools to adopt a then-new concept of lawyers as skillful agents who exercise judgment to get things done rather than simply being repositories of legal knowledge. The complete resolution can be viewed at www.nysba.org/abaresolution.
The resolution draws from the State Bar's 2011 "Report on the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession," which recommended ways to address the "sea-change" taking place within the profession. The report raised the issue of inadequate training of new lawyers, recommending more skills-based training to meet client demands and the need to develop more "practice ready" law school graduates. The report can be found at www.nysba.org/FutureReport.