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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Arizona State to Launch Law Grad ‘Residency’ Program at Law School Law Firm Modeled After Teaching Hospital

Arizona State logoNational Law Journal:  Think of it as a Residency for Lawyers, by Karen Sloan:

A visit to the famed Mayo Clinic last year got Douglas Sylvester thinking. The medical residency system gives fledgling doctors real-world experience under close supervision, so why doesn't anything similar exist for new lawyers beyond the sink-or-swim law firm associate system?

Sylvester, dean at Arizona State Uni­versity Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, set out to create what he hopes will be the first large-scale, nonprofit training law firm affiliated with a law school. Administrators are still working out the details, but hope to have the as-yet-to-be named firm up and running by 2013.

"Rather than sit here and keep rehashing the same debate about whether we should do away with the third year of law school or whether we should require certain elements, we thought, 'It would make a lot of sense for us to come up with something after law school for those students who do want to have that residency experience,' " Sylvester said.

He wasn't exactly the first legal educator to float that idea. In 2011, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law professor Robert Rhee and Brooklyn Law School professor Bradley Borden published an article, The Law School Firm, proposing that law schools create professionally managed, nonprofit law firms employing their recent graduates.

A small number of law schools operate what are known as solo incubators — school-supplied office space and mentoring for graduates hoping to establish solo practices. The City University of New York School of Law started a solo incubator in 2007; the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and Pace Law School have since launched similar efforts. So has Maryland.

Administrators at Arizona State are thinking bigger, Sylvester said. The preliminary plan calls for hiring five or six experienced attorneys who would essentially act as partners and supervise 15 to 30 "resident lawyers" — recent ASU grads. The residents would spend a set amount of time — most likely capped at two years — cycling through different practice areas including bankruptcy, family law and corporate organization. The firm would charge clients for legal services, but at relatively low rates. Any profit would finance scholarships.

(Hat Tip: Darrell Miller.)

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I'm shocked you didn't pick up on the tax implications here. Remember the medical residents cases?

Posted by: Anon | Jun 12, 2012 3:45:05 AM

If you are able to obtain a clerkship or summer associate position after your 1L and 2L year, and perhaps do an externship for credit during the school year, there really is not much for a residency program in regard to it being any more beneficial than what I just described. Of course, I am of the opinion that it is more important to develop the legal mind than to use up time in law school for practice application courses or residency, which an attorney will spend the rest of his or her life developing. Nevertheless, I applaud ASU Law for trying something new in hopes to better prepare law students, where I hope they prove me wrong.

Posted by: Lt. Dangle | Jun 12, 2012 11:25:20 AM

This is a great idea, thats time has come; wish it happened thirty years ago.

Posted by: Gerard W. O'Brien | Jun 12, 2012 12:01:31 PM