Law schools are often criticized for spending too much time and effort teaching their students the law and not nearly enough teaching them the practice of law, with the result that new admittees to the bar are woefully ill-prepared to undertake their new duties as officers of the court and practicing attorneys.
That censure appears far less justified today than it was in the past, for most law degree curricula now include robust clinical programs, internships, trial practice courses and similar programs designed to expose the law student to the realities of the legal profession he or she will soon enter. But the primary focus of the law school must remain, of course, on legal doctrine, and there is a limit to how much of the available time can be carved out and devoted to the practical programs. Accordingly, the law school graduate necessarily comes to her new profession with much to learn.
The law firm, legal aid office or state agency employing the new admittee will typically have in place a training program of varying formality to help the rookie lawyer with the steep learning curve she will be confronting. Bar groups will also focus on this problem with the CLE programs they offer. Indeed, the Young Lawyer Section of the Connecticut Bar Association has for many years presented its highly regarded and very successful “Nuts and Bolts” program, designed to teach new lawyers the fundamentals of various areas of private practice. Now there will be a program applying that same concept to the professionalism issues the first-year lawyer will be facing, with the hope of filling a void in law school and post-admission training.
This November, the CBA’s Standing Committee on Professionalism and CLE will present its first “Professionalism Boot Camp” for new and relatively new lawyers, which is designed to help them “master the skills needed to practice more professionally and ethically.” The half-day format will start with a plenary session presented by the Statewide Bar Counsel or a former chief disciplinary counsel, with the objective of teaching the attendees how to avoid a grievance, a topic of paramount importance to them, of course. That will be followed by breakout sessions on the use of technology in the practice; insurance requirements; the structure, organization and operation of large law firms; client intake and billing; networking and rainmaking; and the unseen perils of social media.
All the topics will be presented from the perspective of the ethical and professional framework in which the lawyer must operate, with the objective of inculcating in the nascent attorney a regard for maintaining the highest level of professionalism and civility from the very start of her career. In the process, the new recruits will learn the unwritten rules of the practice, which cannot be found in the Practice Book or anywhere else, but which are so necessary to a successful and rewarding career.
The mission of the CBA Standing Committee on Professionalism and CLE is to enhance the level of professionalism among lawyers and judges and to promote their commitment to the CBA’s Lawyer’s Principles of Professionalism. The professionalism boot camp it has conceived will constitute a giant step toward meeting that objective, with obvious benefit to both those lawyers and our profession. Kudos to the Committee.