June 2014 - State Bar’s Requirement for Law Students and New Admittees Would Benefit Pro Bono Clients
by Kirsten Kreymann
An exciting proposed rule from the California State Bar may result in additional pro bono legal services to the poor.
A three-part proposed new rule, referred to as “Admissions Regulation Reform” has progressed past the Phase I stage and is now in the Implementation Committee.
The proposed rule has three parts:
- 15 units of practice-based, experiential course work during law school. Or, in lieu of some or all of the 15 units, a Bar-approved externship, clerkship, or apprenticeship;
- 50 hours of legal services devoted to pro bono or modest-means clients during pre or post admission; and
- 10 hours of MCLE focusing on law practice competency post admission.
The rule was created out of growing concern amongst the legal community, and the State Bar in particular, that many new lawyers enter the legal profession as solo practitioners without sufficient experiential foundation and with little mentorship support.
The second portion of the rule—requiring 50 hours of pro bono or modest-means legal assistance—may significantly increase the provision of legal services for the poor. In Orange County alone, there are four ABA-accredited law schools whose students will turn to groups like the Public Law Center and Legal Aid of Orange County to fulfill this section of the rule. An increase in volunteerism, when leveraged correctly, will increase the number of low-income people assisted.
Public Law Center, Orange County’s pro bono law firm, is uniquely positioned to engage what may be hundreds of additional volunteers each year. However, facilitating this volume of volunteerism is not free—in fact, this is a primary function of PLC’s paid thirty-six-member staff. PLC views the proposed Admissions Regulation Rule with optimism and calls upon the Orange County legal community to creatively work together to engage this new group of volunteers using stretched financial resources.
Kirsten Kreymann is Pro Bono Director of the Public Law Center, which provides free, civil legal assistance to low-income residents in Orange County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.