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Vol. 41, No. 1

How do bar associations help law students? A closer look

by Dan Kittay

As the debate over whether to revise the law school curriculum continues, many state and local bars have been successful in establishing practical skills programs. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Pro Bono in Toledo

The Toledo Bar Association’s Pro Bono Legal Services Program works with the University of Toledo College of Law to provide work study and internship placements, says Pat Intagliata, program director.

She usually has at least one student working in her office, and often has others who volunteer as they have time. The students are able to observe cases and handle some of the work that doesn’t require a law license.  “We provide them with a practical approach to the law,” Intagliata says.

The pro bono program offers a number of clinics to the public, and there is usually a good turnout of student volunteers. Intagliata makes periodic visits to the law school to talk about her program, and to make students aware of the possibilities for gaining experience.

One of the student volunteers was Michelle Tussing, who later did an externship with the program and is now the director of the pro bono center at Operation Legal Help Ohio, a statewide organization that helps match low-income veterans with pro bono attorneys.

“I am using the experience I got from watching Pat run her program to help me run this program,” Tussing says, adding that she got hands-on experience with processes such as client calls and interviews, which are essential to her current work.

New Lawyer Training in Orange County, Fla.

The Orange County (Fla.) Bar Association holds a two-day “New Lawyer Training Program” each year, and many attendees are law students rather than recent graduates, says Peggy Storch, the bar's communications manager. In fact, she notes, it's not unheard of for law students to account for 40 percent or more of the total attendance.

The program offers sessions on such areas as navigating the county court system, best practices, and how to set up a solo firm. Students can also be paired with mentors who will provide guidance as they progress in their legal careers.

The program came about when local judges asked the OCBA to “address perceived skill deficiencies in young attorneys,” Storch says. The bar worked with judges, law students, and experienced lawyers to decide what components the program should include.

Students have responded well to the program, and the OCBA has had a membership bonus as well: Over the three years that the the program has been offered, almost 25 percent of law students who have attended it have become OCBA members, Storch says.

Fundamentals in Boston

The Boston Bar Association recently launched a “Friday Fundamentals” series of substantive programs aimed at law students and new lawyers, says BBA President Lisa Arrowood.

Each of the bar’s sections is responsible for creating the content for one of the sessions. While some programs focus on topics that are also of interest to more experienced lawyers, each section is required to offer at least one program on “fundamentals” for brand-new lawyers and prospective lawyers in its given area, Arrowood says.

An ongoing partnership in New Mexico

The State Bar of New Mexico has an active collaboration with the University of New Mexico School of Law, says Breanna Henley, the bar’s member services coordinator.

Some of the bar’s sections are involved in the school’s moot court, she says, and others help the school to develop and instruct courses. The bar’s CLE department provides free admission to law students for live programming, Henley adds.

Domestic violence training in New Hampshire

One of the offerings of the University of New Hampshire School of Law Daniel Webster Scholar program (see “What do law students need in order to ‘fly’? And how can bar associations help?,” also in this issue) has a direct tie to the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Training with the bar’s Domestic Violence Emergency Project, which provides free legal representation at final hearings for domestic violence protective orders, has become part of the DWS curriculum. The students take courses over a three-week period, DOVE Coordinator Pamela Dodge says, and then are matched with volunteer lawyers to work on cases. The training includes a role-play of a domestic violence case, with law enforcement officers playing the parts.