Pace Law School enters the in-house law school market

Pace Law School is reacting to the tough job market for public interest attorneys by launching a law practice inside its own doors.

Starting in September 2012, a staff made up of recent Pace Law graduates will provide affordable legal services for people and community groups in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York.

The new program, called Pace Community Law Practice, is being created with a $100,000 donation from David Anthony Pope's Generoso Pope Foundation, announced Dean Michelle Simon at an annual Leadership Awards Dinner earlier this month.

Many law firms are no longer willing to finance the training of entry-level attorneys, so more students are looking to law schools to give them the practical skills the market needs. Pace's new program responds to that demand; similar to a medical school residency, a pool of seasoned attorneys will offer Pace's novice lawyers support and guidance to eventually fly solo and form their own practices.

Depending on how much additional funding is raised, five to seven Pace Law graduates who earned their J.D. degrees the previous spring will work at the new community law practice. The majority of law fellows are expected to practice in such areas as immigration, family and housing law.

Unlike post-graduate fellowship programs at other law schools, Pace's new law practice will contain a solo practice training component, with seminars on incorporation, malpractice insurance, obtaining and billing clients and setting up a law office.

Pace's idea to open up an in-house law firm is not a new one. Bradley Borden and Robert Rhee, law professors at Brooklyn Law School and the University of Maryland School of Law, respectively, are proposing that law schools create law firms to serve as teaching facilities for upper-division students. The firms would be fully functional, independently operating entities supported by their own funds.

Their proposal is to send students to work at the firm for the entirety of their third year. They would work with partners who were chosen for both their legal expertise and their desire and ability to pass that expertise on to students.