Paul L. Caron
Dean




Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Law School Clinics + Senior Lawyers = Practical Training For Students, Legal Services For Clients, And Purpose For Retired Partners

Tom Sharbaugh (Penn State), Could a Purpose Deficit Fill Unmet Legal Need?:

This essay considers two problems that may have a common solution. First, many senior lawyers are searching for a purpose in their post-retirement lives. Second, although law-school clinics could make substantial contributions to satisfying the unmet needs for legal services while also providing meaningful practical training to their students, many law schools have hesitated to expand their clinical-education programs, at least in part, because they are more expensive than traditional doctrinal-lecture courses. ...

Since leaving Big Law, a number of my former partners, as well as partners at other firms, have reached out to me to discuss what they could do in retirement. Many of my colleagues were aware that I landed a law-school teaching job (and I remind some when I solicit them for donations to support my pro bono legal clinic). ...

It is apparent from my personal experience that many retiring or retired partners no longer have a sense of purpose, i.e., they do not have a future direction and they do not know what is next.  Perhaps the practice of law was enough to get most of us through [the] ... malaise of our youth, yet apparently we never really escape the underlying question of “what’s the point?” — it only returns with a vengeance later in life. ...

Using unmet legal needs to fill a purpose deficit
Now, let’s consider my proposal for using the talents of the many retired law partners who are not already fully engaged in leisure, structured volunteerism, family roles, or other activities.

As a lawyer who was in private practice for decades and is currently a teacher in a law school, I am a huge fan of clinical education, but law schools do not share that view universally. As mentioned above, clinical education is more expensive for law schools due to the cost of having a low faculty-to-student ratio in an educational setting that requires close supervision. Clinical instructors also have less stature within law schools than doctrinal professors. ...

My proposal to have senior lawyers work as supervisors in legal clinics contemplates individual initiative on the part of law schools, legal clinics, and senior lawyers.  The wheels of any institution, particularly those on a higher-education train, turn very slowly, and the senior lawyers do not have enough time remaining for faculty committees and reports.  Law schools and legal clinics could simply reach out to senior alumni, and senior lawyers could simply reach out to law schools after reviewing their respective menus of existing clinics.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2021/11/law-school-clinics-plus-senior-lawyers-equals-practical-training-for-students-legal-services-for-clients-and-purpose-for-reti.html

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