NYC Bar Task Force Publishes Report on Issues Facing New Lawyers

Fall 2013

The New York City Bar Association Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession, of which FKSA litigation partner Eric Seiler was a member, recently released a report proposing significant changes in the education, training and development of new lawyers. The Task Force announced the following four proposed initiatives:

  • The creation of the City Bar New Lawyer Institute which will provide career advice, formal legal training, and mentoring to new lawyers beginning their careers in New York City;
  • New and expanded "Bridge-to-Practice" programs, which will provide law students and new lawyers with on-the-job training and work experience at private sector, government, and legal services employers in New York City;
  • The creation of a working group to review whether the New York bar exam is testing the right content and skills and to suggest possible changes to improve its relevancy and effectiveness; and
  • The establishment of an entity employing primarily new lawyers that will provide certain core legal services at below-market rates to clients of moderate means, in areas such as family law, estate planning, and contract drafting.

The report also identified several impediments to change in the legal profession, including:

  • An overreliance on the law school rankings of U.S. News & World Report, which the report notes has been criticized by many law school deans as an inadequate and incomplete measure of a law school's quality, and has led to an "arms race" in which law schools spend their limited funds on areas that will maintain or improve their rankings rather than on education;
  • The current American Bar Association Law School Accreditation Standards, which the report characterizes as a "barrier to innovation" and whose rigid requirements in respect of faculty, curriculum, and facilities effectively prohibit law schools from experimenting with low-cost models of legal education;
  • Bar exams that test few actual lawyering skills and instead focus on content that will likely be irrelevant to most practicing attorneys; and
  • The limits on fee-sharing with non-lawyers and non-lawyer investment in law firms, which the report indicates are hindering the industry's ability to provide affordable legal services to the middle class.

The report concludes with the announcement of a new City Bar Council on the Profession to implement the Task Force's proposals and continue monitoring changes in the legal profession.

The Task Force was formed in the Fall 2012 to address changes in the legal profession and their particular impact on new lawyers, and was comprised of individuals from all corners of the legal profession.