Constitutional Daily

Founding Principles

The Tenure Paradox - Robot pimp

Slap on the Wrist for "Non-Consensual Sex" - Lampshade, Esq.

Intelligence: The Gathering - Graphic and Gratuitous

Grads are the New Illegals - Robot Pimp

Meet Entitlement Eric - Robot Pimp

Wherein I Solve World Peace - Lampshade, Esq.

A Necessary Delusion - Shadow Hand

Do you even need to shave overhead? - Lawyerlite

LSAT Jenga - Publius Picasso

Time, Place, and Manner

...Should have some links here or something.


A Modest Pupillage

E-mail Print PDF

Among all the talk about law school reform, such as cutting tuition, or maybe freezing tuition, or at least limiting tuition hikes to no more than double the rate of inflation, there has been little serious discussion about what law schools or the practicing bar can do to help people who have already graduated and are now either unemployed or under-employed, and either way are likely permanently shut out of the legal profession, but still have their legal profession entry fees to pay off.

Colorado Judge John Kane has floated a basic principle that would actually provide relief to not only future graduates but also current young lawyers.

However formal or informal it might be, the law as a profession is a guild with an obligation to provide pupillage, apprenticeship and journeyman status to its members.[...]

I have a modest suggestion that all law school alumni associations and all bar associations stop giving money to law schools and instead direct their largesse to assisting law graduates with student loan repayments and otherwise repair the damage being caused by the law school glut. [Simple Justice]

Of course, law firms (and some government agencies and non-profits) do already provide a great deal of on the job training for newly minted lawyers. The difference between the current market and what Judge Kane appears to be talking about is that there is an obligation to train new lawyers.

I'm going to leap off from Kane's comments and propose a way that obligation might actually be fulfilled. In Canada, junior lawyers have an articling requirement. Basically, they have to serve as lowly legal clerks for a year before being admitted to the bar. But there is no correlating requirement on the practicing bar to hire articling clerks. In fact, law firms are so resistant towards hiring recent grads that there is an articling crisis, and the Canuckistani bar is considering dropping the requirement.

That seems to me like a terrible fix. If articling is an important part of legal training, and there aren't enough positions, the solution isn't to ditch the requirement, it's to create more positions. And now our proposal:

Mandatory Pupillage.

Every attorney with at least 15 years of experience would be required to oversee 900 hours of paid work by an attorney with fewer than 5 years of experience, or attorneys returning to the profession who have not been practicing for 3 of the past 5 years. The hour requirement would be on a two year cycle, meaning an attorney could hire a junior associate part-time for two years, doing 900 hours per year, or 1800 hours for one year, and no hours the next. Hours could carry over for a number of years to allow for a full time pupillage of several year.

Experienced attorneys with a pupil would also be required to provide 1 hour of face-to-face mentoring/feedback for every 20 hours of work.

The requirement could be reduced or eliminated for attorneys showing actual financial hardship. Though, 945 hours (900 work + 45 feedback) at $7.50 an hour is only $7,087.50 a year. Adding in payroll taxes and some overhead, attorneys ought to be able to take on a pupil for about $10,000-12,000 a year. (Two experienced attorneys would be able to split a full time pupil in order to lower overhead expenses.) And that's the cost, not the net loss. Hopefully these pupils would be able to generate a small profit for the attorneys they work for. With expenses this low, the financial hardship level could be set around $75,000-85,000, perhaps more for cities like New York and DC.

And of course, there would be an exception when there is a lack of qualified applicants. To handle this, state bars would create a registry, where people seeking pupillage sign up and indicate their geographical range and a bit of other data.


Alternatively, we can just raise licensing fees for older attorneys and require them to fund pupillages for the lawyers who want to take someone on. Providing small funding for jobs wouldn't necessarily create more, but if to few firms grab the subsidy, then the subsidy pool grows and the amounts being offered rise until it reaches a equilibrium.


This might sound like some Generation Whine "I'm entitled to a job!" nonsense, but it's not. It's "As a member of the practicing bar, you're obligated to ensure the future integrity of the profession, so nut up grandpa and quit whining about downgrading your CL-550 to an S-350. You'll live."

[Read more from BL1Y]

blog comments powered by Disqus

Philadelphia Lawyer, Unfiltered

The finest blend of analysis, advice, and fury on the internet. Sour mash, oak barrel aged, published at cask strength.


Most Recent Article:

In Defense of Risk (Happy Fourth of July)

All Articles from The Philadelphia Lawyer

Author Profile

The Robot Pimp

An in depth look at the emerging intersection of law, behavioral economics, and robots.

Most Recent Article:

The Tenure Paradox

All Articles from The Robot Pimp

Author Profile

Practice Makes Putrid

Legal practice would be all rainbows and buttercups, if it weren't for the clients, and opposing counsel, and co-counsel, and judges, and the law.

Most Recent Article:

Eat Mor Fiv Freedums

All Articles from The Namby Pamby

Author Profile

Gin and Glannon's

As Shadow Hand suffers through law school, the rest of us get a little Schadenfreude.

Most Recent Article:

I Just Work Here

All Articles From Shadow Hand

Author Profile

Irresistible Impulse

Dr. Rob Dobrenski's daring expedition into the psychology of lawyers and the law. (Not a substitute for a life well lived.)

Most Recent Article:

You're Not a Failure, You're a Narcissist

All Articles from Dr. Rob

Author Profile

Graphic and Gratuitous

Sometimes cartoons are the highest form of communication. Those times are known as "most of the time."

Most Recent Cartoons:

Intelligence: The Gathering

All Cartoons

There And Never Back Again

Defunct Big Law attorney BL1Y shares his misadventures as a writer who accidentally went to law school.


Most Recent Article:


All Articles from BL1Y

Author Profile

Lampshade, Esquire

We're dealing with some technical difficulties here. Hold up a minute.

All Articles From Lampshade, Esq.

Staff Infections

News, humor, and other non-billables from our underpaid, uncredited, unsexy staff.


News Articles

Smaller News Bits

Large Numbers of Law

Mixed Bag of Lawesome


Scofflaw Multistate Bar Review