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Hebenstreit: Has the Time Come for Articling?

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IBA-hebenstreitDo you know what the term “articling” means? I did not until recently, but it is quite relevant to the discussions swirling around about the value and importance of a law school education.

The American Bar Association held its Annual Conference in Toronto, Ontario recently. Many have asked why a group of American lawyers would want to travel to Canada for a conference, but that is not the real point. As part of participating in the sessions for Bar leaders, I attended a forum concerning the similarities and differences of Bar Associations (or “law associations” as they are frequently referred to north of the border) in Canada and the States. One of the speakers was a gentleman who was the Immediate Past President of the Toronto Lawyers’ Association. It was interesting learning the differences between the 2 common law systems including that the Canadian trial lawyers actual “robe” to enter the courtroom.

What was most interesting for me was the concept of articling. It is founded on a medieval practice but is still practiced in Canada. After the typical 3 year law school education, the Canadian students still must pass the equivalent of the bar exam. But, to sit for the exam, they need to complete essentially a one year apprenticeship. During the period of articling, they attend the equivalent of our Bar Review course, but are not allowed to sit for the exam until they complete their articling responsibilities.

It sounds very similar to the traditional practice here in the States where a firm selects a second year student as a clerk and then hires that student to serve the apprenticeship after law school. The Canadian graduates are typically paid and are under the tutelage of an experienced attorney. There are apparently no real rules about how detailed the mentorship needs to be, but those with whom I spoke felt they received good value from the articling students—and typically hired them after successfully completing the Bar Exam. The law schools help to pair their students with a mentor, but it really is up to the student to find a mentor. Also, there is a limit to how many years within which a student must complete their articling requirement, so it is entirely possible that a student could never find a good match and consequently not be able to even sit for the exam.

Here in the States, there is growing concern about the high cost of a law school education as well as the concern that law students do not learn how to practice law in the traditional law school. I am not sure how that is different from 1977 when I graduated from IU Law School at Indianapolis. There were internships available, but upon graduation, I did not know how to practice—nor did I expect that. The culture, at least as I saw it, was that law school educated a student to understand legal principles as well as how to think like a lawyer. It was up to us to figure out what to do with it.

Certainly, the cost of a legal education was dramatically cheaper than it is now. Some student loan payments equal what our first monthly mortgage payment was. That truly is unfortunate. Students still have to figure out what to do with their education. The economic pressure is greater, but the problem is the same.

Much has been written about the cost of a legal education compared with the practical applications of that same education. Some writers have accused the law schools of deceit in enticing students into paying for law school when there are no jobs for them upon graduation. This seems a bit silly. If we believe that the students are smart enough to graduate from a law school, aren’t they smart enough to determine if it is a good course of action to take?

This year we have met with Dean Gary Roberts concerning whether or not the law school should be an institution of higher learning or a mere trade school. It is a conundrum because on the one hand, the schools would like to be more responsive to the needs of their graduates, but they still must meet the requirements of accreditation-- and national rankings are still important. The primary thrust of our discussions revolved around what is essentially a form of articling—some way that the mentors of the IndyBar could, or would, agree to provide some form of apprenticeship for the students. Those talks will continue, but perhaps we should look to our Canadian brothers and sisters for guidance.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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