Matching members of our community who are in need of free legal services with the abundance of young lawyers who are in need of practical legal experience is a simple solution to a pervasive problem.
Law School Transparency recently released data on employment rates for 2012 graduates of the 200 ABA-approved law schools. Only 56.2% of 2012 graduates were employed in full-time, long-term jobs as lawyers. For the 5 ABA-approved schools in L.A. County, this number is 54.1%, which is even more disturbing than the national average.
For me, the problem is as follows: where large firms traditionally hired and trained new lawyers, they are currently not, at least not like they used to. Moreover, small to medium firms lack the resources and/or desire to train those without actual experience. One must be an “experienced new lawyer” — it is seemingly an oxymoron!
So how does a new lawyer gain the requisite skills necessary to secure a stable job? Volunteering for a pro bono legal services organization provides a phenomenal opportunity for a young lawyer to learn how to be a working lawyer. There are an astounding amount of individuals whose financial situations hinder their access to legal services. These individuals must be paired with lawyers willing to provide them with free legal representation. The Barristers provide several services and programs to facilitate said pairing.
For many years now, the Barristers have hosted a monthly Free Legal Clinic, which is open to the public, and provides a venue for any lawyer looking to volunteer. Last year, I created a Pro Bono Committee to promote pro bono work among Barristers, and instituted a monthly newsletter highlighting opportunities at legal aid organizations, including upcoming clinics, as well as details on individual cases that require a pro bono lawyer.
Furthermore, we have strengthened our relationships with local legal aid organizations by assigning Barrister liaisons to interface with the organizations, facilitate joint programming, and assist Barristers in their involvement with the organizations. Specifically, we have enhanced our relationship with Bet Tzedek by hosting free training sessions at our offices, which prepare volunteers to serve both at their clinics, and on individual cases, involving conservatorships, guardianships, and wage and hour issues.
All pro bono programs offer volunteers the mentorship of, and training by, senior lawyers. Thus, inexperienced lawyers need not worry that they will be without guidance. I urge all new lawyers in transition to volunteer for pro bono work. Not only will you gain practical experience, but you will be providing a service that is essential to facilitating equality in our justice system.
Autumn Ronda is a Tax and Estate Planning attorney at Valensi Rose, PLC in Century City. You may contact her at ar@vrmlaw. com or 310 277 8011.