Equipping our Lawyers - Summit Recommendations
Strengthening the educational continuum for 21st century lawyers

Summit Recommendations

  1. Law schools should examine their teaching methods and the content of their curricula to ensure that their graduates are capable of serving as effective beginning professionals. Such examination might include:

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    1. Defining the learning outcomes they wish to produce;
    2. Designing the curricula and engaging faculty to produce those outcomes;
    3. Using proven teaching methods that will produce those outcomes, including the application of the latest research on adult learning styles and generational differences in learning; and
    4. Evaluating their success at achieving those outcomes.

Reporter's Comment: Deans and other Summit participants noted that different law schools place differing priorities on scholarship and writing by faculty members as contrasted with teaching or preparing students for practice. Some participants suggested that a number of law schools place a low priority on their faculty members' developing research-based teaching skills for effective adult learning. This recommendation acknowledges the validity of law schools' different approaches to their missions while also placing a high value on preparing their students for legal careers.

Summit conferees who were asked to look at generational differences in learning style suggested that significant differences could largely be bridged if law schools, CLE organizations, and instructors considered relevant and new research and expanded their instructional approaches accordingly. As generational differences appear to be largely permanent and little change can be expected as people age, these differences in learning style should be taken into account when planning all educational programs.

  1. Building upon the defined learning outcomes from Recommendation 1, law schools, the bar, and the bench should partner in the career-long development of lawyer competencies. In particular, law schools should initiate the continuum of legal education by integrating into their curricula the core practice competencies described in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the MacCrate Report, the Carnegie Report, and the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education competency evaluation program in achieving their desired learning outcomes.

Reporter's Comment: While respecting the valuable diversity of law schools, participants in the Summit concluded that law schools that have not already done so should consider more rigorous efforts to help their students obtain the core competencies needed for practice.¹ One route to that end would be having a CLE department or at least an administrative officer whose responsibility would be to develop and coordinate partnering relationships with the bar and bench to facilitate training in core competencies.

  1. Law schools should continue to refine their lists of identified core practice competencies, recognizing that essential competencies will vary by stage of education and by practice area.

Reporter's Comment: This recommendation refers to the core practice competencies referenced in Recommendation 2 above. Recommendations 11 and 12 below expand further on the need across the educational continuum to identify essential practice competencies as the basis for planning career-long learning objectives for lawyers.

  1. Law schools, the bar, and the bench should develop and encourage transitional training programs (defined as ones that teach or improve practice skills) to begin in law school and to continue through at least the first two years of practice. Approaches to implement this recommendation might include:
    1. Experiential learning opportunities in law school curricula, for example: practical experiences, clinical experiences, skills courses, internships, and mentorships;
    2. Post-admission supervised apprenticeships (similar to paid articling in Commonwealth countries) or other practice experiences such as working in legal services programs consistent with law graduates' financial situations; and
    3. Universal mentoring requirements for new admittees.

¹ Recommendation 2 refers to several important documents.
The MacCrate Report, formally titled Legal Education and Professional Development - An Educational Continuum: The Report of The Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap.

The Carnegie Report abstract, entitled "Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Practice of Law" (2007).

The ABA Model Rules.

The Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education competency evaluation program.

Also relevant in this context is a report of the Clinical Legal Education Association,
"Statement of Best Practices for Legal Education" (2007)

Reporter's Comment: The main thrust of Recommendation 4 is to encourage building practice competencies into the process for determining readiness for bar admission. While it repeats some concepts found elsewhere in these recommendations, this recommendation emphasizes the importance of making lawyer education a true career-long continuum, rather than a disconnected landscape of only distantly related fiefdoms with few connected pathways or purposes.

A variety of real-world models exist for the mentoring envisioned by this recommendation, including law school internships, the articling process in some Commonwealth jurisdictions, and the State Bar of Georgia Transition Into Law Practice program.

  1. Regulatory authorities should consider restructuring one-time bar examinations into phased examinations over time, linked in part to attainment of legal practice skills, with some parts of the examination occurring as early as in the law school years.

Reporter's Comment: While this recommendation proposes a significant change in the bar admission process in the United States, it was strongly supported by Summit conferees. Participants noted that initial testing in skills development during law school would result in an increased skills focus in law schools, protect the public, and provide valuable feedback for law schools and law students alike. It was also noted that phased examinations are already used for licensing in other professions, such as medicine. Summit conferees recognized that implementing this recommendation would require some fundamental changes in traditional law school and bar admission approaches, but believed that the process of consideration and experimentation would be a positive challenge.

  1. CLE providers, MCLE regulators, the practicing bar, and the bench should create communication frameworks for mandatory CLE rules to ensure that all parties share an understanding of the content of the rules, their needed evolution, and their effects.

Reporter's Comment: The goal of this recommendation is to ensure that all interested constituencies participate in a dialogue about how to make the MCLE rules more effective in improving the profession and protecting the public it serves.

  1. MCLE regulators, in collaboration with CLE providers and the practicing bar, should develop appropriate accreditation standards for all varieties of distance learning CLE programs while also updating and improving accreditation standards for in-person CLE programs.

Reporter's Comment: Distance learning encompasses a myriad of media, including but not limited to live and archived telephone seminars, live and archived audio and video webcasts, audio and video replays, and private and public uses of CDs. Over the past decade, distance learning has become an integral part of CLE, and its broad use and unique characteristics demand consideration for appropriate accreditation standards. How much of a lawyer's mandatory CLE requirement should be met through distance learning? Some think that all lawyers should have to participate in at least some in-person CLE because of the inherent value of face-to-face interchanges. Others argue that well-planned and well-executed distance learning media can yield equally effective learning results and, therefore, should not have accreditation limits. Summit participants agreed that accreditation standards for more traditional, in-person CLE programs also need to evolve to reflect ongoing CLE experience and research findings on effective approaches to adult learning.

  1. MCLE regulators should 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.

Reporter's Comment: This recommendation speaks to the not-uncommon mandatory CLE provision that denies accreditation to CLE courses on practice management, computer usage, or other skills lawyers need but that do not relate directly to substantive law. The rationale in some states for such limitations has been that CLE should encourage legal skills and knowledge, not practice management skills. Participants at the Summit argued that effective client service requires lawyers to be good managers of their time and offices, skilled managers of the financial aspects of running a practice, and knowledgeable in areas that do not necessarily involve substantive law. Several conferees involved in lawyer disciplinary matters noted that the percentage of cases involving lawyers' shortcomings in personal and practice management far outweighs the percentage of cases involving lack of substantive law awareness. This fact argues in favor of mandatory CLE rules that encourage lawyers to develop skills in practice management, practice development, client communication, and the like.

  1. MCLE regulators and CLE providers should work together to develop and implement means of measuring the effectiveness of CLE offerings.

Reporter's Comment: Lawyers have traditionally been skeptical of testing in any form. And even the best-crafted evaluation forms are of limited value in substantiating the amount of learning taking place in CLE programs or in determining whether other approaches to learning might be more effective or efficient. Moreover, as was noted at the Summit, what really matters is whether the lawyer has the practice competencies needed for the work he or she is doing, not when or how the competencies were acquired. This argues for measuring competencies throughout careers, not by hours served in class.

  1. Recognizing that law firms and other legal employers are significant and regular providers of CLE, MCLE regulators should provide them with the same opportunities to gain accreditation of their programs as those afforded to external CLE providers.

Reporter's Comment: Some jurisdictions deny or limit mandatory CLE credit for in-house training programs. It was the consensus of the Summit participants that lawyer training should be encouraged in many settings as long as it meets the basic criteria of effective teaching and learning to produce better qualified and better performing lawyers.

  1. 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;
    3. Creating technology-enabled sharing of information and resources among providers and users of legal education;
    4. Building support and getting input from local and regional constituencies on the project's recommendations and actions to address the recommendations; and
    5. Developing mechanisms through which solo practitioners, small firms, and public interest organizations can access and benefit from developmental resources, training, and mentoring created by law schools, CLE providers, bar associations, and legal employers.

Reporter's Comment: The early years of the 21st century have seen a rapid rise in the number of law firms, corporations, and government offices scaling up in-house professional development programs for their lawyers and in the number of full-time in-house education officers of such organizations. Key reasons for the increase in such programs and personnel have included hoped-for cost and time savings as compared with sending lawyers to outside training and the expected benefits of tailoring lawyer training to the specific needs of the lawyers in the sponsoring organizations. This recommendation suggests that after this period of rapid growth, it is appropriate now to step back, assess what has been learned to date, and share and spread the lessons of effective in-house professional development.

  1. The project described in Recommendation 11 should create a rigorous, sophisticated approach to developing model competencies, including:
    1. Assembling information about existing competency models;
    2. Creating a research process for identifying and testing which competencies actually correlate with successful practice;
    3. Designing a template for making competencies appropriate to different roles, career stages, practice areas, etc.; and
    4. Designing model curricula, aligned with the model competencies, to support lawyers' post-law school development.

Reporter's Comment: This recommendation expands on Recommendation 11(a) above. It seeks to encourage those responsible for developing lawyers (e.g., law schools, in-house professional development programs, CLE providers) to participate actively in the design of practice competencies that will serve the legal profession and in the development of educational strategies and opportunities relevant to teaching those competencies. The use of competencies to guide educational approaches will increase the value of legal education for all concerned, including those delivering and receiving legal services.

  1. Law firms and other legal employers should continue to improve the effectiveness of their in-house programs by:
    1. Using input from clients to identify important practice skills that will help lawyers serve their clients more effectively;
    2. Applying adult learning theory and approach when designing programs; and
    3. Partnering with law schools, clients, and CLE providers to share resources and to identify and apply the best content and teaching approaches.
  1. Law firms and other legal employers should recognize a range of possible professional "paths" and provide or support training that assists lawyers in setting and achieving their individual professional goals.

Reporter's Comment: The old model of all young lawyers eagerly seeking to work as associates in order to become partners in law firms is no longer the sole existing professional model, if it ever was. Rather, lawyers today choose among a wide range of career models. This recommendation simply urges that 21st century reality be taken into account so that lawyer training is based on realistic assumptions about lawyer career paths and is more likely to fill the felt needs and wants of lawyers and the organizations for which they work.

  1. Law schools, law firms, and CLE providers should train their instructors in: teaching skills, effective uses of technology to enhance learning, inter-generational communication issues, the communication of professional values and identity, and the design of effective clinical experiences.
  2. 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.