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New York City Bar Association Task Force Calls for Changes in Education and Career Focus for New Lawyers – Report Announces Pilot Programs and Urges Focus on Unmet Middle Class Legal Needs


Eric Friedman
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Kathryn Inman
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New York City Bar Association Task Force Calls for Changes in Education and Career Focus for New Lawyers – Report Announces Pilot Programs and Urges Focus on Unmet Middle Class Legal Needs

New York, November 14, 2013 – Following more than a year of analysis, the New York City Bar Association’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession today released a report recommending fundamental changes in education and career focus for new lawyers.

In its report, the Task Force—comprised of eight law school deans, the managing partners of law firms large and small, two of the City’s District Attorneys, the New York City Corporation Counsel, the leaders of The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC, five general counsels of large companies, and career services professionals—urges a stronger effort to match the perceived oversupply of lawyers with the unmet legal needs of the middle class, identifies “impediments to innovation” in the legal industry, and announces the launch of four pilot programs to help prepare new lawyers for a changing legal landscape:

  • The City Bar New Lawyer Institute. A City Bar-run New Lawyer Institute to introduce all new lawyers beginning their careers in New York City to the broader legal community and to provide them access to high-quality training and career support in the early years of practice.
  • “Bridge-to-Practice” Programs.  New and expanded partnerships with major employers, who will work with the City Bar to develop pilot programs to provide training and employment opportunities for law students and new lawyers.
  • Reviewing the Bar Exam.  A City Bar working group to report within a year on potential changes to the way New York State tests the qualifications of those seeking to be licensed to practice law in the state.
  • A New Law Firm for People of Moderate Means.  A new entity, subject to funding, that will develop and pilot a commercially sustainable business model to enable new lawyers to address the unmet civil legal needs of the middle class while developing their own sustainable professional practices.

“For all the hand-wringing about the supposed oversupply of lawyers in the legal market, we should bear in mind that in New York State alone well over two million people per year go to court unrepresented in civil proceedings,” said City Bar President Carey R. Dunne, who convened the Task Force. “We believe there are many in this cohort who could, and would, pay something for legal services if there were a business model that addressed their needs, and that both they and the legal system would be better off if they had representation.”

The law firm pilot designed for clients of moderate means would employ primarily new lawyers who will receive training and supervision to provide a suite of core services in such areas as family law, estate planning, contract drafting, disputes, and small business advice. The pilot will focus on the development of a sustainable and scalable business model that can be adapted elsewhere. “We recognize that this is an ambitious undertaking, implementation of which will depend on the success in attracting significant start-up funding from both within and outside the legal profession, but we believe that the fundamental changes affecting the legal community should cause us to re-evaluate the expectations of our profession and affirmatively seek out ways to re-define success in a new professional landscape,” states the report.  

The City Bar New Lawyer Institute is a response to the Task Force’s finding that the current model of legal education often insufficiently addresses many fundamental lawyering skills, and that legal training in any event should be viewed as a continuum that extends beyond law school into the early years of practice. Beginning with the law school class of 2014, the New Lawyer Institute “will offer a year-long continuing legal education curriculum designed to teach new lawyers the practical skills and substantive knowledge necessary for success as a practitioner in New York City, including training and advice targeted to potential small firm and solo practitioners” states the report. “The Institute also will provide advice and experience in professional networking and job interview training. Finally, New Lawyer Institute participants will have access to a series of mentorship opportunities so that they can receive advice on both substantive legal issues and career development.”

“We need the profession to step up and adapt our practices to changing needs, and we should not hesitate to borrow what works in other professions and locations,” said Mark Morril, Chair of the Task Force. “The clinical model in medical education, the specialization and teamwork approach on case studies in business schools, and the practical, on-the-job training new lawyers undergo in the U.K. are all worthy of a serious look by our profession.”

In the Bridge-to-Practice program, employers will partner with law schools to provide experiential learning opportunities for law students and new lawyers. “We emphasize that hands-on experience is not alone sufficient to meet the goal,” states the report. “Ideally, the practical experience should be preceded by academic training so that it is experienced in the context of knowledge of the legal system and processes and some substantive law. It must be accompanied by meaningful supervision and feedback, as well as structured opportunities to reflect on and analyze the experience from a more academic viewpoint.” BNY Mellon, Con Edison, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley have agreed to work with the City Bar to develop and implement pilot programs, subject to working out details.

Among the impediments to change in the legal profession, according to the report, is an overreliance on the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, “which measure the wrong things. In each of the last ten years, more than 170 law school deans have signed a letter ‘publicly condemning the rankings’ for failing to measure many characteristics that define a law school’s worth.” The rankings’ outsized influence has led to an “arms race” as law schools have “felt the need to redistribute scarce law school resources away from education and towards other efforts that will maintain or improve their schools’ rank.”

Other impediments to innovation cited in the report include the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, whose “one size fits all” requirements for staffing, libraries and facilities stifle experimentation with low-cost models. And bar exams need to do a better job of  testing the relevant skills needed to be a lawyer in the 21st Century, the report argues. The Task Force also recommends reexamination of the current prohibition on outside investment in law firms; recent loosening of similar restrictions in the UK has lead to a rapid expansion of mass market retail legal services.  

The Task Force was formed in the fall of 2012 to address changes in the legal profession, with a focus on the “plight of new lawyers.” According to the ABA, only about half of 2011 and 2012 law graduates were employed full time in jobs requiring bar passage nine months after graduation. The overall employment rate for the class of 2011 was the lowest since 1994. The Task Force was charged with examining whether new lawyers are being given relevant development opportunities in law school and in their early careers so that they are employable, able to realize their aspirations in a reasonable time frame, and ready to serve clients effectively.   

The Task Force’s report concludes with the announcement of a City Bar Council on the Profession “charged with the implementation of the Task Force’s proposals, including continued management of the design and operation of our pilot programs, and with ongoing monitoring of and participation in the public debate about trends in the profession. The City Bar will launch a series of roundtables to engage the resources of bar leaders and the organized bar in New York City to facilitate ongoing discussion of the issues addressed in this Report, and to monitor the successful implementation of our recommendations. We contemplate both public and private moderated discussions designed to secure the continuing engagement of the profession in these issues.”

Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession

Carey R. Dunne, President, New York City Bar Association; Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Mark C. Morril, Vice President, New York City Bar Association, Task Force Chair; MorrilADR LLC
Bret I. Parker, Executive Director, New York City Bar Association
Alan Rothstein, General Counsel, New York City Bar Association
Mathew S. Miller, Task Force Chief of Staff; Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Nicholas Allard, Dean, Brooklyn Law School
Michelle J. Anderson, Dean, CUNY Law School
Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief, The Legal Aid Society
Richard I. Beattie, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Laurie Berke-Weiss, Berke-Weiss & Pechman LLP
Bradley Butwin, O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Michael A. Cardozo, New York City Corporation Counsel
Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP
Camille Chin-Kee-Fatt, Advisor to the Dean, New York Law School
Sharon L. Crane, Director of Legal Recruiting, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Anthony Crowell, Dean, New York Law School
Matthew Diller, Dean, Cardozo Law School
Eric J. Friedman, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Eric Grossman, Chief Legal Officer, Morgan Stanley
Charles J. Hynes, Kings County District Attorney
Brad S. Karp, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Don H. Liu, General Counsel, Xerox Corporation
Carmelyn P. Malalis, Outten & Golden LLP
Elizabeth D. Moore, General Counsel, Consolidated Edison, Inc.
Trevor W. Morrison, Dean, NYU School of Law
Barbara Berger Opotowsky, Former Executive Director, New York City Bar Association
Julian Pritchard, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
Raun J. Rasmussen, Executive Director, Legal Services NYC
Alla Roytberg, Law Firm and Mediation Practice of Alla Roytberg, P.C.
Patricia Salkin, Dean and Professor of Law Designate, Touro Law Center
David M. Schizer, Dean, Columbia Law School
Amy W. Schulman, General Counsel, Pfizer Inc.
Eric Seiler, Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP
Jane C. Sherburne, General Counsel, BNY Mellon
Charles A. Stillman, Ballard Spahr Stillman & Friedman LLP
Kathleen M. Sullivan, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP
William Treanor, Dean, Georgetown University Law Center
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., New York County District Attorney
Wanji J. Walcott, Deputy General Counsel, American Express Company
David B. Wilkins, Director, Program on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School

Read the Executive Summary here:

Read the full report here:
About the Association
The New York City Bar Association, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession, promoting reform of the law and access to justice, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association, through its 24,000 members, continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.