THE MENTORING AND BRIDGE THE GAP SUBCOMMITTEE
The Mentoring and Bridge the Gap Subcommittee examined the Conclave’s findings regarding the Continuing Legal Education requirement and mentoring:
Continuing Legal Education
• We recommend the development of high quality, interactive learning materials through the partnership of practitioners, law schools, and judges. These materials would be both on substantive areas and in skills training and professional values. The OSBA and the Ohio CLE could coordinate the Ohio law schools and local bars in producing these materials.
• We recommend that the CLE exemption for first-year law students be revoked. The courses that are taken during the first year should be offered at reduced prices, and should be introductory skills and practice courses as distinguished from substantive law courses.
• Establish a CLE program where the practitioners come together and interact with one another and engage in problem solving in a format different from lecture. This proposal may require some interaction and some assistance from the court, the Supreme Court in particular through the Commission on CLE.
• The Bar family -- the foundation, the firms, the bar associations -- should take responsibility for subsidizing skills and values based post-law school CLE.
• We support mentoring as a transition after law school. We recommend, for example, a different type CLE course for new graduates that would focus on office practice, management, the problems of organizing a new law office.
• State CLE requirements should be modified to require newly admitted attorneys to take a course in practical skills early in their first year of practice. Such courses should include ethics and client relations as well as a range of practical skills offerings. It is suggested that courses be developed by the Ohio CLE Institute, working with the local bar associations and the law schools.
• The Supreme Court should amend the CLE rules to require all lawyers in their first year after admittance, at no cost to them, to take 12 hours of CLE. Six hours should be devoted to professionalism and six hours to practical skills development.
• We recommend that the bench and bar develop principles and standards for continuing legal education, incorporating adult learning methodologies, faculty development, and emerging technology to provide law students, the bench, the bar and associated professionals with the identified skills and values throughout their careers as lawyers.
• Bar associations should be encouraged to increase their efforts to have practicing lawyers serve as mentors to new lawyers with particular emphasis on solo and small firm practitioners who did not have the same level of support available as those who practice in larger firms. Specifically, we suggest that the bar associations examine programs in Utah, New Mexico, South Carolina and Delaware, which seem to have enjoyed some higher level of success than the other programs. This proposal includes examining the possibility of providing CLE credit to lawyers who participate in mentoring programs.
• We recommend that bar associations, in a collaborative effort, develop standards to be met by lawyers and law firms for working with law students who are under their care and supervision. We want to make this mentoring truly effective from the student’s perspective as well as the perspective of the employer and believe that a set of standards would improve the quality of that experience and regularize it.
• Regarding mentoring, we recommend using retired, recently retired lawyers, or senior lawyers. We should develop a very specific group, designated, talented, older, senior, experienced attorneys who would be available and set up a mentoring system of institute for new graduates or young attorneys.
• The Ohio State Bar Association and local bar associations should implement voluntary one- on-one mentoring programs to provide new admittees with assistance regarding professional responsibilities and necessary skills development. The Supreme Court shall award appropriate CLE credit to such mentors. Senior lawyers should be encouraged to practice as mentors.
• We recommend specific training of mentoring skills and the opportunity to mentor and be mentored, according to particular interest groups. In this regard, we recommend that the Ohio CLE be utilized to develop the materials for teaching mentoring skills and that mentors be given CLE credit, but not mentees.
• All bar associations of Ohio should establish voluntary mentoring programs. These programs shall consist of experienced attorneys who will assist the transition of young attorneys into practice. The assistance would consist of advice, guidance, modeling and teaching of lawyering skills.54
• We recommend developing a Bridging-the-Gap course by law schools, their alumni, and the bench just before law students graduate. This course could be an intensive weekend or multi-weekend program to introduce students to the kind of very practical and very serious issues that they are about to face in practice.
• We recommend bridging the gap between the law school and entering the profession and recommend that the law schools and the bar associations join forces to establish teaching law firms. Such firms would resemble non-profit teaching hospitals to provide Bridge-the-Gap training for new law students. This proposal may include having some kind of commission charged with certifying that every new law graduate gets some kind of appropriate Bridge-the-Gap training. This commission would also evaluate or certify law firms as to whether they are providing sufficient Bridge-the-Gap training.
A. CLE and Mentoring
The Mentoring Subcommittee had several meetings and conducted research in connection with the mentoring and CLE suggestions made by the Ohio Conclave on Education for the Legal Profession. Based upon the Subcommittee’s research, investigations, and deliberations, it submits two recommendations regarding these areas. The first is that the current CLE exemption for first-year attorneys be revoked and that mandatory "bridge the gap" training be required for first-year admittees. The second is that a standardized curriculum for mentoring training should be established and CLE credit should be made available for mentors successfully completing the training requirements. The Commission adopted each of these suggestions. Each of these issues will be addressed in turn.
B. Revocation of first-year CLE exemption
Depending upon whether newly admitted members of the Ohio Bar practice with an agency, a law firm, or become sole practitioners (by choice or necessity), there are varying levels of training available to them. Many new lawyers who practice in small firms or as solo practitioners are deprived of needed transitional training. To remedy this, the Commission believes that a more standardized approach to the basic skills and values training for newly admitted lawyers should be implemented.
A number of states, including Utah, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Delaware, have such mandatory programs. The Commission reviewed and investigated these and other state mandated post-admission requirements. In Ohio there are existing bridge-the-gap programs provided on a voluntary basis. However, we do not believe that the willingness or financial wherewithal of a new admittee should govern access to basic skills training after completion of law school.
In order to increase access to such training, the CLE exemption for new lawyers contained in Rule X of the Rules for the Government of the Bar should be eliminated. This recommendation is consistent with the report of the Council of Delegates from the Committee to Review Rule X.55 This is also consistent with the recommendations of the Ohio Conclave on Education for the Legal Profession listed above. It is recommended that the Commission convene representatives of local CLE providers, including local bar associations and private agencies, for the development of a standard bridge-the-gap curriculum which would incorporate the skills and values identified in the MacCrate Report.56 It is with these basic skills in mind that the adoption of a standard curriculum for a mandatory CLE requirement should be developed. The Commission recommends that the Bar and Court designate a group to study and prepare a standard bridge-the-gap curriculum to be taken by attorneys within one year after admission to the bar. This curriculum should be satisfied by new lawyers in their first year of practice.
Attention should also be given to the cost of such mandatory programs, including the incorporation of hardship tuition waivers. Such waivers should be provided sparingly, however, there may be some circumstances under which a waiver may be appropriate.
C. CLE Credit for Mentors
There are a number of mentoring programs in the state of Ohio operating through traditional and specialty bar associations. As with mentoring programs across the country, some of these programs are more formalized than others. Their importance to the vitality of the legal profession, however, cannot be overstated:
Mentoring is vital to the professional growth of the young lawyer, and it ought to be standard in the practice of law. Lawyers are more effective when they are both well-trained and well-adjusted to the practice as a whole. This adjustment cannot occur for young lawyers without the aid of practicing lawyers who already know the ropes.
Effective mentoring will not occur, however, unless there is a commitment to the idea that training young lawyers is a responsibility of the senior members of the bar. Mentoring has a beneficial effect on the practice of law as a whole, and the absence of mentoring has a detrimental effect. A lack of mentoring contributes to the decline in civility among members of the bar, the increase in "hardball" litigation tactics, and the general dissatisfaction that many lawyers feel with the profession.
Recent increases in lawyer dissatisfaction demonstrate that there is a risk of the law becoming a "revolving door" profession. Women and minority lawyers in particular are leaving the profession in large numbers. One reason that these people leave the practice is because no one is paying attention to their needs and they feel isolated. In other words, they are not being mentored.57
The Commission believes that allowing CLE credit for mentoring will serve several purposes. It will encourage the formalization of existing mentoring programs and attract a greater number of experienced practitioners to mentor where they might not otherwise do so. The Commission discussed at length the imposition of mandatory mentoring, but felt that such an imposition would be unwieldy, be met with consternation, and defeat the spirit of the mentoring concept.
It has been suggested that under the current Regulations for Hours and Accreditations, a training program for mentors probably would not qualify for CLE credit. The Standards for Accreditation under Regulation 406 state that the "CLE activity shall have significant intellectual practical content, the primary objective of which is to improve the participant’s professional competence." (Emphasis added). Participation in a mentoring program as a mentor arguably does not improve the participant’s (mentor’s) professional competence. Despite this apparent inconsistency, the Subcommittee recommends that CLE credit be extended to mentors who participate in mentoring programs which meet certain minimal standards.
The Commission believes that any formalized relationship between academia, the bench, and the bar in a collaborative educational setting may be beyond the scope of the charge to this Commission. The Commission further agrees that the development of any such collaborative relationships should encompass more broad input from the legal community and warrants further study and discussion. The Commission, however, encourages academia, the bench, and the bar to continue to explore ways to work together to educate Ohio’s lawyers.