Equipping Our Lawyers

January 12, 2011

Strengthening the educational continuum for 21st century lawyers.
News and Notes from the ALI-ABA/ACLEA Critical Issues Summit

Issue #7 of Equipping Our Lawyers eNewsletter

Editor's Note: Greetings of the New Year! 2010 was a year of positive change and fruitful ferment in the continuum of legal education, and I predict that 2011 will be even more eventful!

We hope that this newsletter has opened your thinking to useful new approaches and that you will take an active role in making it and its companion website, www.equippingourlawyers.org, even more valuable in 2011.

Please make it a regular habit to check www.equippingourlawyers.org for latest news that is posted several times each month related to the Summit Recommendations and to add your comments. And please send us your insider tips on developments in the continuum of legal education that should be shared with the legal education community.

-Chuck Bingaman, Editor

Legal Aid Funding Dropping, Implementing Summit Recommendation 16 All the More Urgent

The National Law Journal reported January 3 that state funding for Legal Aid Societies is falling rapidly in the recession and the financial crises facing many states. See http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202476843961&

Ed. Note: Government funding losses will mean that legal aid organizations will, more than ever, rely on volunteer efforts of practitioners and supervised law students to carry what will certainly be increasing caseloads. Summit Recommendation 16 says...

Acknowledging our professional responsibility, the legal community should continue to develop programs that will prepare and encourage law students and all lawyers to serve the underserved.

  1. As part of the legal community, law schools, if they have not already done so, should incorporate into their curricula the principle that improving access to justice for all is every lawyer's responsibility, and should offer students early in their law school experience exposure to underserved communities and opportunities to provide legal assistance to those communities.

  2. The legal community in each jurisdiction should collaborate to help newly admitted lawyers develop the skills that will enable them to provide effective legal services to underserved communities and to create opportunities for those lawyers to provide such services.

    Examples of such opportunities include work with community-based legal services including solo practitioners' resource networks and non-profit "incubators."

    Other opportunities for newly admitted lawyers to provide legal services to underserved communities include working with law school/court partnerships to provide resource materials for self-represented litigants, representing clients through traditional bar association pro bono programs, and serving as mentors to students in law school legal clinics.

  3. An entity of the ABA should serve as a clearinghouse for these programs to provide examples of best practices and innovative ideas.


Canada Drafting National Standards on Admission to Practice

According to Alan Treleaven, Director of Education and Practice of the Law Society of British Columbia, The Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the umbrella organization for Canada's 14 law societies, is developing national standards for admission to the bar. The target date for completing the standards is the end of 2011.

The project's goals are to develop consistent competency standards for admission to the bar and to provide law societies with an objective mechanism to ensure that every new admittee meets the national standards.

Several factors have emerged, according to Treleaven, to suggest the desirability of each law society having similar standards for the admission of applicants to the bar. The most compelling of these factors is national lawyer mobility.

The National Mobility Agreement ("NMA") permits lawyers to move from one Canadian jurisdiction to another with ease. See www.flsc.ca/en/pdf/mobility_agreement_aug02.pdf and, more generally, www.flsc.ca/en/committees/mobility.asp.

An underlying premise of the NMA was that standards for admission were already reasonably comparable. The reality, however, is that significant differences exist between law societies in their admission standards and processes-differences that cannot be justified. The existence of common standards should eliminate concerns about the qualifications of mobile lawyers.

Moreover, reports Treleaven, the establishment of national admission standards should eliminate the duplication of effort and expense that is inevitable in the current system in which each law society develops its own processes and standards to evaluate applicants.

Central tasks of the project, says Treleaven, are drafting a profile of those competencies needed for entry into practice, defining and articulating the required elements of good character, and developing a mechanism to assess whether applicants possess the competencies and good character.

The Federation's project Steering Committee is responsible for working with law societies to ensure that their views and interests are reflected in the standards and that law societies are kept informed. The Steering Committee will also assist the law societies with implementation of the standards after they have been approved.

The work of the project is divided into three streams:

  1. drafting and validation of the competencies profile
  2. drafting of the good character standard
  3. development of assessment mechanism

Following the drafting and validation of the competency and character standards and the development of a suitable assessment mechanism, the final standards and proposed assessment mechanism will be submitted to the Federation of Law Societies for approval, following which the law societies will be asked to adopt and implement the national standards.

Editor's Note: In this project, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada is taking a bold step in recognizing the realities of 21st century practice and giving its legal education leaders guidance.

Summit Recommendation 11 provides, in part, "[A] post-Summit project should be initiated with representatives from law schools, the practicing bar, legal employers, bar associations, bar admissions, MCLE regulators, CLE providers, and in-house professional development to determine next steps toward achieving some or all
of the following goals:

  1. Designing a model approach to competencies;

  2. Designing a model approach to bridge-the-gap transitional training programs..."

Building upon the above Recommendation, Recommendation 12 proposes "creat[ing] a rigorous, sophisticated approach to model competencies including... a research process for identifying and testing which competencies actually correlate with successful practice."


The Federation project in Canada will result in an agreed national set of new lawyer competencies and a mechanism for testing-and recognizing-them in a relatively short time. It may provide a valuable model for U.S. jurisdictions and the U.S. as a whole where there are no official competency standards and where state-by-state licensing may no longer fit with 21st century multi-state and even global practices.

Updated ABA Law School Accreditation Standards, Including Performance Based Criteria, in the Works

The ABA Law School Accreditation Standards Review Committee met last week in San Francisco to further its update of accreditation standards. New themes -among many-
in the circulating draft require law schools to make their curricula more practice oriented and to require all students to demonstrate at least minimal practice-related skills.

See especially the accreditation requirement in Section 303(a)(3)-added in the latest draft-that law schools provide "one faculty-supervised, rigorous course after the first year that integrates doctrine, theory, skills, and ethics and engages students in performance of one or more professional skills identified in Standard 302(b) (3). The course shall be (i) a simulation course, (ii) a live client clinic, or (iii) a field placement complying with standard 305(e)."

Here is a link to the most recent draft learning outcomes with underscored highlights of latest changes. http://www.abanet.org/legaled/committees/Standards Review documents/Drafts for Consideration/Report of Subcommittee on Student Learning Outcomes - Jan 2011.pdf

Lee Jones Leads CLEreg into Mid-Year Meeting

Newly appointed Executive Director Lee Jones of Concord, New Hampshire is putting final touches on plans for the CLEreg mid-year meeting February 5-7 in New Orleans. CLEreg is the professional association of administrators of mandatory CLE plans in the U.S. and Canada. Ms. Jones, who has served the Granite State mandatory CLE commission from its inception, took office late last year after the resignation of previous Executive Director Cheri Harris.

One of the program highlights of the CLEreg mid-year meeting will be a discussion of how various MCLE states handle the issue of accrediting subjects that are not clearly oriented to substantive law. (Summit Recommendation 8 urges MCLE organizations to "accredit training in the content or skills necessary to effectively practice law, even if such content or skills are not directly related to substantive law."

Find further information on CLEreg and its upcoming meeting at www.clereg.org. Readers should also note that CLEreg has recently announced an online service providing current MCLE regulations on a state- by-state basis by subscription through its website for $49.99 per year.

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