Our Future, Our Youth
Our profession welcomes over 3,500 graduates of New York area law schools each year. They are intelligent, enthusiastic, energetic and increasingly diverse. Yet they are also entering the profession at a time of uncertainty and rapid change, and face increasing job and career pressures. Many also carry a level of debt unfathomable a generation ago.
The Association greatly values law students, and has developed a range of
programs to help them. Most are spearheaded by our Committee on Law Student Perspectives. That committee developed our law student membership program.
We currently have over 1,200 law student members, and our experience shows that many stick with us after graduation as they proceed with their careers. Law student members have the opportunity to join an Association committee. Student committee members have a great opportunity to gain valuable exposure to a field of law, mingle with the top professionals in that field, and participate in the high level of committee work that is expected of all committees.
The Law Student Perspectives Committee presents a series of events each year which address the needs of law students, notably with regard to career options. The Committee also annually presents its very popular “The Art of Schmoozing” program, which teaches a valuable skill not found in law school curricula. Our Young Lawyers Committee also focuses on law students. It recently presented a two-part program on “The Art of the Law School Exam,” and its career-oriented programs are of value to law students as well as new lawyers. Of course, the major activity of the Young Lawyers Committee is the conduct of the most prestigious national moot court tournament in the country. This year, the 54th Annual Competition features 14 regional competitions with 189 law school teams. The two top teams from each region come to New York in early February for the finals.
The next step after law school is the bar exam, and the Law Student Perspectives Committee annually presents the program, “Navigating the New York Bar Exam.” We also look at the substance of the bar exam. Our Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar has been studying the bar exam and has made recommendations over the years for the exam to focus more on testing practical skills that a new lawyer will have to employ. Recently, the Committee opposed a proposal to raise the bar exam pass rate, urging that there be further analysis of the need for, and impact of, such a substantial change.
The Legal Education Committee is also working to address the problem of law school debt, and how it affects the career choices of law students. With the average debt of a law school graduate exceeding $80,000, many graduates who might otherwise opt for public sector and public interest positions feel the need to work in the private sector to cover their loan payments. In addition, many new lawyers in private practice find a substantial portion of their salaries going to their creditors. The Committee recently issued a report on the scope of the debt problem, which you can view on the Reports page of the Association’s website, www.abcny.org. The Committee is now probing possible approaches and solutions to this vexing problem.
We also help underprivileged law students financially. The C. Bainbridge Smith scholarships, established by a bequest nearly 80 years ago, are given each year to students in local law schools who are in particular need and have exemplary records. Students apply through their law schools. In addition, our Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Lawyers sponsors a Fellowship Program, which gives outstanding first year law students of color the opportunity to work as a summer associate in a major New York law firm. The program, now in its second decade, has been a wonderful opportunity for law firms to get to know talented law students and for these students to be exposed to the corporate law firm practice. If you are interested in hiring a Fellow, contact the Committee Chair, Brenda Gill, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Association feels the responsibility to make the transition from law student to lawyer a smooth one, and to show students that they are entering a profession with high standards of ethics and civility. They are, of course, our future leaders. We should show them what to expect, and what is expected of them. I hope we can further develop our law student programs, and welcome your suggestions.