The Second Annual Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers ETL Conference began yesterday afternoon, and what a day and a half it has been. We started with the speed networking round, where consortium teams got together to meet each other and share what has been happening at their schools in the last year. This morning, we had a terrific presentation from practitioners about the competencies they are hoping to see in their new hires. It was a great panel, but I think there was agreement in the room that the star was Roy MacFarland, who graduated just three years ago, and with two partners - also new grads - started a law firm from scratch. He told his story, and shared his own views of the competency question. Educators in the room were very glad to hear from a new grad who actually "hung a shingle."
Before lunch we heard from retired Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Andy Sheppard. Justice Sheppard is the Chair of the ABA Task Force on Legal Education, which recently published its draft report. He laid out the report, and explained it, and then took questions. It was an active and interesting discussion.
After lunch, I joined a panel discussion with John Garvey (UNH) and Sam Estreicher (NYU) about "Structural and Curricular Changes" that might support a new model for legal education. Prof. Garvey explained how the Daniel Webster Scholar's program was developed, and how it operates today. It allows for a "two year bar exam" whereby select students at UNH Law enter a highly practice-focused program, which - if they pass - means they are admitted to the New Hampshire bar upon completion of the program. Prof. Estreicher spoke in favor of his proposal to allow students in New York law schools to take the bar exam after two years of school. He also described his proposal for a legal residency program, whereby students would work for a year and be paid 3x minimum wage instead of attending the third year of law school.
I explained the background and purpose of the new Experiential Advantage program at Denver Law. We have offered to our incoming class that during their time at our law school they may - at their option - take a full year of experiential learning courses. That includes the first year Lawyering Process class, plus a mix of simulation courses, externships, and clinics. We are now hard at work preparing for next year when the upper level parts of the program will go into effect. Of course, we already have all the courses in our curriculum, we are just working to prepare and plan for it. So this was my "short term" approach for a curricular and structural change.
But I also offered a "long term idea." That idea is explained in the blog post below.