In late 2015, I had the honor of speaking at one of the several swearing in ceremonies for new lawyers in Faneuil Hall. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about being an officer of the Boston Bar Association. It was so nice to speak to a group of enthusiastic young lawyers, as well as their proud family members.
As I welcomed them to the profession – a profession which, I think, is one of the best in the world – I knew that many of them had not yet found jobs that required a J.D. degree and that some of them never would.
There are so many challenges affecting lawyers today that it’s hard to list them all, but I think for many of the people who recently graduated law school the most significant challenge is the reduction in the number of jobs available for new lawyers.
I have always had a great deal of sympathy for anybody who put themselves through the three years of rigorous study that law school requires – not to mention the cost – who then get out and don’t get jobs. As a hiring partner at two separate firms, I have received countless resumes from incredibly impressive recent graduates for whom we had no openings. It breaks my heart to see people work very hard to do well both in college and law school, and then be unable to find employment. This is such a contrast to the situation not so very long ago when there were well-paying jobs galore.
Compounding this issue is the fact that these recent graduates don’t yet know how to do much legal work. For those who will never get hired, they need to learn how to do the cases ordinary people will hire a solo practitioner to do handling a divorce case, drafting a will or handling an eviction.
And so a big part of what I’m focusing on as President of the BBA is finding ways to help those people. Can we get them all jobs? No. But what we can do is help them become “practice ready.” We can help them build practical skills so they can represent regular people with regular legal needs. These are the clients who aren’t eligible for legal aid, but who still can’t afford most lawyers out there.
To that end, I’m so pleased to announce that in January we launched “Friday Fundamentals,” which is a series of short, “how-to” trainings on specific legal issues. These sessions are designed to give new attorneys the practical and technical skills required to represent clients, as well as add some additional knowledge and expertise to their resume.
The BBA is also working hard to ensure that new lawyers who want to go solo are getting top-notch guidance and support. Later this year, we will offer a comprehensive, hands-on workshop on how to launch a successful solo practice. This, in addition to our existing resources – from offering a place to meet with clients in our new member space rooms to discounts on professional liability insurance through USI Affinity – should help new graduates start their own practices and begin representing clients who now have no legal representation and who are part of the pro se litigant crisis troubling our courts.
With its well-established Professional Development program structure, the BBA is incredibly well suited to teach these skills. When I first learned about the BBA’s brown bag lunches, I went to a few of them. In 90 minutes over lunch, a young lawyer can learn from the stars of the bar – for free!
Friday Fundamentals is building off this very successful model. From now until June, each of the BBA’s 24 sections – covering all areas of law – will offer CLEs or brown bag lunch programs designed for beginners. I’m thrilled and proud of the effort that these Section leaders have put in toward training the next generation of lawyers. To those of you with new associates in your ranks: encourage them to take advantage of this series. For those young lawyers out there: these programs are for you. Take advantage of them!
Are we going to fix this in a year? No. But it’s a wonderful place to start.
Lisa is a founding partner of Arrowood Peters LLP, whose practice concentrates on business litigation, employment disputes, medical malpractice, personal injury, and legal malpractice. At the BBA, Lisa has served as the President-Elect, Vice President, and Secretary of the Council, the Co-Chair of the BBA Torts Committee, and a member of the Executive Committee, as well as various other committees. She is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL), a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and immediate past Chair of the ACTL Massachusetts State Committee as well as a member of the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows.