ABA President Wants to Give Jobless, Inexperienced Lawyers Something to Do: Help the Poor

From the ABA Journal:

In what may turn out to be Silkenat’s signature project, he discussed the joining of two pressing issues for the legal profession: access to justice and the dearth of jobs for newly minted lawyers.

Using jobless law school graduates to increase access to justice is a popular idea these days. The problem is that jobless law school graduates are also inexperienced and unqualified, as a rule. Any work they do, whether it’s for the poor or anyone else, is not automatically helpful. It’s more likely harmful, unless they have competent mentors.

Like others running to provide needy clients with incompetent lawyers, new ABA President James Silkenat proposes to create a Legal Access Job Corps to kill those two birds with one stone. It’s just not clear — to me, at least — that Silkenat is concerned with the competence of those jobless lawyers. From the ABA Journal article, it seems like his primary concern is getting funding. I hope that’s just the ABA Journal’s focus, and not an accurate assessment of Silkenat’s proposal.

Getting funding is obviously a primary concern; I just hope he plans to give a lot of that funding to competent mentors, assuming he ever gets it.


  1. Avatar Smack says:

    So a monthly stipend of 2500 pre-tax is going to help young lawyers pay off those $150,000+ law school loans? Color me skeptical. Look, we all need to face reality here…there is a reason the poor do not have access to legal representation: they cannot pay for the lawyer’s incurred risk of providing them representation. To take a client pro-bono means that the lawyer loses time otherwise spent on paying clients AND its not as if the malpractice standards are lessened because the representation is provided gratis. Add the forgoing with the crippling debt loads facing these young lawyers and their general lack of experience and its too great an economic risk for them to provide pro-bono work to the poor.

  2. Avatar Ashley N. McCord says:

    Well… $2500/month is better than nothing. It would provide the new graduates with experience. It sounds like training wheels. Could be good. Could be bad. I would do it. If it was the best option for me.

    • Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

      It sounds like a malpractice factory.

    • Avatar Dr. Juris says:

      I think it sounds like an insult, personally. Yes, it’s a learning experience, but unless that same person is willing to subsidize my student loans, I don’t see it as worth it.

      • Avatar Ronnie says:

        People focus way too much on student loans. I’ve been out of school 8 years, and I’ve NEVER not been in a position to pay my loans, and there have been times I’ve made less than the $2500. How about you contact the loan provider and get an IBR and pay nothing for a year? That’s what I did when I opened my firm. $0/month for twelve months. Next year, $38/month for 12 months. Private loans? Interest only for 2 years. Not that complicated.

        But I’m not surprised a lot of graduates would rather make nothing at all than make little, learn what they’re doing, and get some student loan relief in the process. That sounds way too logical…

        • Avatar Dr. Juris says:

          My loans accrue interest even if I take a year away from them, and since you’ve apparently deferred yours for a year, you seem to have been in a position in which you COULDN’T pay your loans….

          Not everyone wants to make peanuts using the degree for which they paid dearly. And I’m not surprised that people who haven’t graduated in today’s current job market want to judge those of us who are insulted by that offer. I can make more waiting tables. No, I won’t get the experience, but it doesn’t sound like you’ll have much supervision in the first place…

  3. Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

    This is the legal equivalent of Jurassic Park: the power goes out on the electric fences, all the dinosaurs get loose, and lots of visitors die.

  4. Avatar ptd says:

    It could be a worthwhile idea if there are volunteers willing to offer their experience to train the attorneys. I think they will have more luck if they model their efforts after the SCORE program and recruit retired/mostly retired attorneys who have a few decades of experience.

    For me, its a no brainer if the choice is to slog away as a solo trying to figure it all out for next to no money, or working as a part of probono program for next to no money but with actual training.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      if the choice is to slog away as a solo trying to figure it all out for next to no money

      Well, if this is what you think it’s like to be a solo, you’re definitely not cut out for it.

      • Avatar ptd says:

        If you are going solo just out of law school, you will be learning how to lawyer and trying to build a book of business at the same time. It isn’t an easy road, to pretend otherwise is dishonest. I don’t think acknowledging this fact is determinative of anyone’s ability to lawyer as a solo or otherwise.

        I am not suggesting that established solo attorneys can’t make money, or that they are forever working for next to nothing. But, the first years of being a lawyer is difficult enough, and if one can find a more stable route to learn how to be a lawyer, why wouldn’t you?

        • Avatar Sam Glover says:

          I’m not pretending anything. I’m just saying that if you are convinced you won’t make money as a solo, you probably won’t, whether you are doing it after law school or after 30 years of practice.

  5. Avatar Mark says:

    When I was young, inexperienced and unemployed, people would ask why I didn’t volunteer my legal services to poor people to gain experience. I never did it because I figured being poor was bad enough without being saddled with me as their attorney.

  6. Avatar Dr. Juris says:

    I’ve got one pro bono client as I look for legal work, and I’ve done a damn good job. I’m lucky to have friends who are willing to look over my documents and discuss at length different strategies, but it has taken a lot of time and effort….honestly more time than most people are willing to give. A huge problem I’ve noticed is that attorneys (new or old) look at pro bono work as if the client should be lucky they have representation–good or bad–at all.

  7. Avatar George K Stevens says:

    What is really sad is that all these graduates of ABA-accredited law schools “are also inexperienced
    and unqualified, as a rule. Any work they do, whether it’s for the poor
    or anyone else, is not automatically helpful.”

    Perhaps the ABA should worry less about such fashionable left-wing causes as diversity and political correctness and create standards that would result in minimum competence levels at graduation.

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