The Community Legal Access BarAlt* ("CLABA") proposal targets four concurrent goals:
(1) providing affordable legal representation to Arizona's underserved lower middle-income population,
(2) maximizing development and utilization of the legal skills of recent law school graduates,
(3) enhancing competency of lawyers entering Arizona bar practice, and
(4) validating an alternative (albeit limited) method of competency-based admittance to the Arizona bar.
This proposal advocates utilizing recent law school graduates to provide quality-assured, reduced-fee services to lower-middle-income Arizonans earning $15,000-$35,000 per year, a demonstrably underserved population. The recent graduates would commit to a one-year apprenticeship program (at modest salary) working with experienced lawyer/mentors recruited to practice exclusively within the program.
Preliminary research indicates that this demographic is underserved in all core legal practice areas. The program model anticipates six general practice areas for service provision within the project, ranging from domestic- and business-related issues to community infrastructure support, including both litigation and transactional work. Clients will be served primarily by apprentices rotating in six-week shifts through these major practice areas under the supervision and management of experienced lawyer-mentors. The apprentices' rotations, similar to medical residency programs, would alternate through both mandatory core practice areas and optional specialty areas, providing apprentices with a portfolio of competencies with which to enter practice.
Experienced, trained lawyer-mentors would oversee case management, acting as coaches and resources for the apprentices to ensure that all clients receive diligent, competent representation. These mentors would also conduct particularized, objective performance evaluations during and immediately after each rotation. In addition to knowledge of black-letter law, students would be evaluated on their abilities in legal analysis, legal research, problem-solving, oral and written communication, fact investigation, negotiation, client counseling, alternative dispute resolution, time management, and the recognition and resolution of ethical issues. At the end of the yearlong apprenticeship, if all evaluations are successfully completed, the apprentice would be admitted to Arizona Bar Practice. Arizona's current character and fitness standards would remain in full force, as would the mandatory multi-state ethics examination.
Grants from non-governmental sources appear to be viable funding sources for this program. Preliminary research also indicates that AmeriCorps and Equal Justice Works (formerly NAPIL) may be appropriate sources to approach for start-up and research funding. Pilot project and continuing program funding may be available from select ABA sections, public interest groups, private foundations, and AmeriCorps.
Other state bars are receiving program proposals along these general lines. The closest comparable model is the Public Service Alternative Bar Exam (PSABE) proposal in New York. Their report and recommendation is due for release in fall 2002.
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