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44th Street Notes

Welcome Law Student Members

May 1999

In 1992 an ABA Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession, chaired by Robert MacCrate, a former ABA President and former Chair of this Association・s Executive Committee, issued a report entitled Legal Education and Professional Development--An Educational Continuum. The MacCrate report, as it has come to be known, emphasized that the growth of a lawyer as a professional should be viewed, not as a disconnected sequence of stages--pre-law school education, law school and post-law school practice--but rather as a continuum. That same principle of continuity, we have decided, should apply to the relationship between individual law students and the legal profession as represented by this Association. And so our Executive Committee, on the recommendation of a subcommittee chaired by Sidney Rosdeitcher, approved at its March meeting amendments to the Association・s By-laws to create a separate membership category for law students. In doing so, we are following examples set by the ABA and the bar associations of such cities as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Benefits for Students

It is not as though we had previously ignored law students. To the contrary, our Committee on Law Student Perspectives, under the energetic and inspired leadership of Daphna Mitchell and now Jennifer Mone, has for several years made a determined and successful effort to involve law school students in the life of the Association and to involve the Association in the students・ educational experience. The Committee has recruited two student representatives from each of eleven law schools located in the metropolitan New York area. They attend the Committee・s monthly meetings, provide topics for and feedback on Committee programs and the newsletter published by the Committee three times a year, publicize Committee events and distribute Committee materials at their respective law schools. This past year the Committee has expanded its newsletter distribution to students at Seton Hall University School of Law and Rutgers University School of Law, Newark.

The Committee on Law Student Perspectives sponsors receptions for law students at the Association, at which students have an opportunity to network with members of the profession. In each of the past six summers, the Committee has co-sponsored, with the Committee on Women in the Profession and the New York Women・s Bar Association, a program entitled :What It・s (Really) Like to Practice Law in NYC as a Woman,; which attracts more than 300 women lawyers and law students; in attendance and enthusiasm it is a highlight of the year. The Committee also sponsors an annual program on judicial clerkships and career-oriented networking receptions with practitioners in different areas, and it co-sponsors practice skills seminars with the Committee on Small Law Firm Management.

The Association has attracted students at metropolitan New York area law schools with other programs. A limited number of students, recommended by their law school deans, are invited to attend committee meetings and contribute to committee projects as interns. Still other interns are recruited by the Association・s Committee on Minorities in the Profession. Additionally, the Association selects three minority law students each year for its Thurgood Marshall Fellowship Program; the students receive an annual stipend and commit to work an average of ten hours a week at the Association on public service or civil rights matters.

Law Student Membership Category

We are now taking the next step of creating a separate law student membership category. On the assumption--I hope justified--that the members of the Association will pass the necessary By-law amendments at the Annual Meeting in May, law students will become eligible to join the Association as members. Payment of modest annual dues of $20 will entitle student members to many membership services, including the rights to use the Association・s Library and Technology Center, to receive 44th Street Notes, The Record and The Yearbook, and to apply for appointment to Association committees.

Why have we taken this step? The reasons are quite simple. First, we hope that law students who have enjoyed their experience at the Association will continue their membership after graduation, particularly if they remain in the metropolitan New York area, as a majority do. Second, student members can serve as a useful bridge between the academy and the profession, enabling each to learn from the other more extensively and productively than they now do. The relationship between legal educators and practitioners has too often been characterized by a mutual distrust, with some educators viewing the profession as a crass trade and some practitioners criticizing educators for not preparing students for the realities of professional life. This Association has always valued the participation of law school deans and professors in our activities; in the past two decades, three law school Deans--John Feerick, Robert McKay and Russell Niles--have served as President of the Association, and several standing and special committees of the Association are chaired by law school professors. Student membership will undoubtedly strengthen the bonds that the Deans and their faculty colleagues have helped to forge.

I look forward with great enthusiasm to welcoming our first class of law student members. They will enrich the Association・s life and, I am confident, their own.

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