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New Lawyer Institute Kicks Off

This fall marks the kick-off of the City Bar New Lawyer Institute (NLI), which is designed to provide recent law graduates with the training and skills needed to succeed in the early years of their legal careers.

The NLI is the first initiative to come out of the City Bar’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession, which issued a report last November on the legal profession and the “plight of new lawyers.” Specifically, the NLI is a response to the Task Force’s finding that the current legal education model does not always fully prepare new lawyers to enter the workforce.

Running from September through May, the NLI focuses on career development, practice management, practice readiness, training and skills. Each participant will be able to complete at least 16 CLE credits, half of the amount required for the first two years, and will have the opportunity to earn all 32 of the first two years’ required credits.

“The goal is to get these new lawyers as practice-ready as possible by helping them develop their skills, and by immersing them in New York City’s legal profession through mentoring and networking,” said Laurie Berke-Weiss, chair of the NLI Advisory Committee.

The 2014-15 NLI has 74 participants from nine law schools in the New York metropolitan area. Seven of those schools are sponsors of the program: Brooklyn Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Columbia Law School, CUNY School of Law, Fordham Law School, Hofstra Law and New York Law School.  The NLI Advisory Committee worked with the New York area law schools in an effort to coordinate the program and promote it to students.

In addition to career and practice development training, the NLI includes a Speaker Series featuring leaders in the profession. The talks aim to give NLI participants advice on how to navigate, and be active members of, the legal profession, but are open to, and relevant for, all lawyers in New York City. On September 17th, Michele Coleman Mayes, General Counsel to the New York Public Library, spoke at the opening session. Other scheduled speakers in the series include NYC Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter on October 22nd and New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on November 12th.

Aside from the focused curriculum of skills and CLE classes, participants will receive guidance on how best to handle specific legal issues and overall career development and planning. Particular attention will be paid to the needs of new lawyers who have not yet found their first position, with a view toward identifying options. It’s expected that completion of the program will make participants more attractive job candidates to potential employers and clients.

Mentoring opportunities include one-hour, one-on-one sessions with experienced attorneys based on practice interest. Attorneys who wish to volunteer for mentoring sessions should email Martha Harris.

The 74 participants have a diverse array of career goals, from law firm practice to public interest and even alternative legal careers.  A number are interested in starting their own practices, and the NLI has a series of programs in its curriculum to assist participants who are interested in that career path.

Participants are also given City Bar membership and are encouraged to utilize all the benefits the Association has to offer.