Targeted Trainings Provide New Lawyers Specialized Knowledge

Volume 38, Number 1

By

Melissa J. Healy is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate in the Portland, Oregon, office of Stoel Rives LLP.

It is no secret that in today’s economy, the newest generation of lawyers is facing unique challenges. Many young lawyers finish law school with few career prospects and significant debt. They find themselves armed with a degree and bar admission, but no job to teach them how to be lawyers. Over the past few years, the Oregon New Lawyers Division (ONLD) has aimed to tackle these problems head-on and provide young lawyers with opportunities that give them meaningful legal experience and position them for permanent job opportunities in the future.

In cooperation with the Federal Bar Association Young Lawyers Section (FBA YLD), the ONLD recently presented two separate two-day training sessions with a simple goal in mind: provide specific, targeted training to new attorneys in areas of law that are in demand but are not frequently taught in law school. To begin, the FBA YLD and ONLD first identified several areas of law that are often overlooked but also serve those most vulnerable. Among those at the top of the list were Social Security disability law and foreclosure defense. Next, representatives from each group reached out to leaders in these fields to help create thorough curricula for these areas. In addition, experts in these fields were asked to present at the CLE programs.

Social Security Disability Law

The first CLE program on Social Security disability law was held at the U.S. District Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, on February 8–9, 2012. The training was provided free of charge to any attorney interested and was accredited for 13.5 CLE hours. Over 70 attorneys, the majority of them young lawyers, participated in the training. Presenters included plaintiffs’ attorneys, administrative law judges, and a claimant advocate. Representatives from the district court clerk’s office were also available to instruct on court procedures.

Day One of the Social Security disability training kicked off with an overview of the Social Security disability claims process, including a discussion concerning the definition of a disability and the available benefits programs. Presenters then discussed the nuances of representing a disability claimant, including the lengthy administrative and judicial process and specialty-specific provisions on fees. Day Two focused on the mechanics of working on a Social Security disability case, from case selection to developing the record. Presenters discussed hearing-level concerns and the post-hearing process, and the program ended with a “Practical Experience” component that included a mock hearing.

Foreclosure Defense

The second CLE program on foreclosure defense was held at the Oregon State Bar Center on May 17–18, 2012. This training was also provided free of charge to any attorney interested and was accredited for 15.5 CLE hours. The program was again well-attended and presenters included attorneys in private practice along with representatives from Legal Aid, the Professional Liability Fund, and the federal district court.

Day One of the foreclosure defense training started with a program entitled “Welcome to the World of Foreclosures/Finance 101.” This program informed attendees about the key players in a foreclosure case; gave them a primer on real estate law; explained the basics surrounding the loan, default, and finance components that are often at play in foreclosures; and advised attorneys on analyzing the note and payment structures over time. From there, presenters launched into programs discussing early case assessment, liability issues, and alternative strategies (such as short sales, bankruptcy, and state and federal assistance programs). The day concluded with a presentation on “the lender’s perspective” and, finally, a “view from the bench” featuring two judges. Day Two covered the relevant civil procedure issues, the current legal landscape (including types of claims and preemption issues), and mediation and settlement of a foreclosure case.

Opportunities

In addition to the formal presentations, both programs provided informal opportunities for attendees to network and speak with practicing attorneys in the highlighted fields. After presenting both programs to full houses and receiving positive reviews, the ONLD is planning additional trainings to fulfill its goal of helping young lawyers gain practical skills that can immediately be put to use in today’s legal marketplace. Young lawyer organizations seeking to implement trainings similar to those presented in Oregon should take care to identify those areas of law that are both in demand locally and amenable to presentation in a condensed format.

For further information about the Oregon trainings, contact Karen Clevering, at karen.clevering@gmail.com, or for copies of the training materials, contact Michelle Lane, at mlane@osbar.org.

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