Tuesday, December 3, 2013
David Barnhizer (Cleveland State), "Practice Ready" Law Graduates:
Whatever view one holds on the idea of “practice ready” law graduates in the abstract it seems clear that it does not and could not mean that a new graduate can be fully capable of providing high quality services across the board to clients unfortunate enough to be using the services of the neophyte lawyer. If that were the case I can hear a client’s conversation with the brand new lawyer in a complex corporate merger with numerous parties, millions of dollars at stake, estate and tax issues, patent rights and differing valuations for the deal. “How many of these have you been involved in?” “I haven’t actually done any but I’ve read up on them and am ready to “hit the ground running. Don’t worry. I had really good Corporations and Tax courses. No problem. I got a high score on the LSAT and aced my Mergers & Acquisitions class so what could go wrong?” Or, “I made the 50th Percentile on the LSAT and got a “C” in M&A but didn’t do bad in the Negotiation course so cut me some slack. Somebody has to be my first client.” Or put “practice ready” in the context of a serious drug felony involving a criminal organization or a murder case. What does “practice ready” require in that situation?
Perhaps the matter becomes clearer if we ask ourselves the conditions we would prefer in having a doctor perform surgery on our brain or heart. What would we expect (demand or require) in terms of a “practice ready” doctor? What would we do if the person responded to our inquiries with the information that he had just graduated from medical school, hadn’t yet done an internship or residency, but had sat through a “really good course” on brain or heart surgery and medical diagnosis that included some “great videos” and observed similar operations on several occasions from behind the glass of a medical theater.
For me the clamor for a “practice ready” law graduate by the organized bar and lawyers is akin to the earlier demands that law schools teach professional responsibility. A reality of the professional responsibility demands by the American Bar Association and state supreme courts was by and large evidence of the fact that those institutions were incapable of or unwilling to take the difficult actions needed to “clean up” the abysmal situation of regulation of lawyers in the US. Demanding that law schools bear the “Professionalism” burden and that law students pass a national “legal ethics” examination is one of the greatest scams ever foisted on the law schools and the general public. It was little more than a pretense by the powers-that-be in the legal profession and judiciary that they had taken action that made lawyers “more ethical” even while avoiding their responsibility for actually cleaning up the system. “Practice Ready” is the latest professional “scam”.