The New York Times reported Thursday that a trend is developing among law schools that are starting incubator law firms that allow graduates who cannot find work to get a job and much needed experience. At the same time, several administrators said the new firms would focus on helping underserved clients -- a win, win situation.
"I realized that was what we needed: A teaching hospital for law school graduates," said the Dean of the Arizona State University Law School, referring to the new legal clinic he is starting that will hire 30 recent graduates and mimic the experience of medical students in mentor programs at hospitals.
The school plans to charge $125 per hour for legal aid, about half the going rate for the area.
In that set up, graduates would have a job and those who could not afford standard legal fees would get help.
"The longstanding concerns over access to justice for mostly Americans and a lack of skills among law graduates are now combined with the problems faced by all law schools. It's creating conditions for change," said Stacy Caplow, a professor at the Brooklyn Law School.
Caplow called the conditions in the profession "a perfect storm," in that good jobs are becoming harder to find in a struggling economy, especially with the Internet prompting an increasing number of Americans to represent themselves in court, the Times said.
On the other hand, "We charge $50 an hour, and I don't take any pay," said Dennis Gladwell,who is director of a University of Utah legal clinic that has a staff of five law school graduates.
Gladwell was skeptical of a clinic that called $125 per hour a goodwill gesture. "If you are going to charge $125, you are not going to serve an underserved population," he said."
Others said a school hiring its own graduates could be blatantly trying to increase the schools rating, given more of its graduates could claim to have jobs.
Still, the trend is gathering momentum. The Times said a dozen law schools are starting new law clinics, including the University of California Hastings College of the Law, City University of New York, Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, and Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y.