It’s such a great idea, it turns out some one has come pretty close to proposing it already. I was contacted by Professor Marsha Cohen at Hastings about their new effort also called “Lawyers for America.” Here is how she described it in a comment at TaxProf:
“Lawyers for America already exists — it’s a new California nonprofit corporation (501-c-3 already secured) created at UC Hastings College of the Law but open to law schools nationally. Its mission is to improve the practical skills of new lawyers, to expand the availability of legal services for those who cannot afford lawyers, and to increase the ability of government and nonprofit legal offices to render such services. The mission is accomplished through two-year fellowships encompassing law students’ final year of law school and their first year as new attorneys. The agency partners receiving fellows will pay Lawyers for America, but the financial model is that a fellow for a two-year arc will cost approximately half the fully-allocated cost of a first-year attorney. Thus the partners get a bargain, and law students/new attorneys receive “medical model” legal training. Our pilot class of fellows has just been selected, and will begin as full-year externs in fall 2013 (at the offices of the Contra Costa County DA and PD). After a bar break, each fellow will work at the office for a year, paid a modest sum (as an employee of LFA). We are talking to other law schools interested in participating, and are hopeful that partnership opportunities will arise with nonprofits and government offices engaging in transactional work as well as litigation. Check our website (http://www.uchastings.edu/academics/clinical-programs/lawyers-for-america/index.php) for more information.”
It would be great to see this model spread. Of course, my larger hope and the impetus behind my LFA idea is for a national program that provides significant debt relief so that we avoid the risk of a “lost generation” of young lawyers.