Studying to become a lawyer is different than actually being a respected, top-notch attorney. That's why more than 100 law school professors, practicing attorneys, judges, and law students from across Ohio attended the Student to Lawyer Symposium in Columbus on November 16. The conference is put on by the Ohio Supreme Court's Commission on Professionalism and it allowed the group to discuss ways that law schools may better assist their students in becoming prepared for the legal profession.
Merisa Bowers attended the event in 2010 when she was a new law school graduate from Case Western Reserve University. This year she was on a panel discussing her experiences as a sole practitioner. Bowers recommended to the group that law schools develop and maintain relationships that will help their students' careers.
"One of the things I think is incredibly important is to develop relationships with the local and state bar associations to continue relationships with solo practitioners and small firms. Forty-six percent of practicing lawyers today are in solos or small firms," Bowers said.
Jack Sahl is a professor at the University of Akron School of Law and the Director of the Joseph G. Miller and William C. Becker Center on Professional Responsibility. He said it's important for law schools and professionals to talk about issues concerning law school students. He said it will help make sure the public gets the best legal representation when the students become full-fledged attorneys.
"The one thing I hope to bring back to the university is that the issue of skills training and professionalism is still very much in the forefront," Sahl said. "Schools are experimenting. I know at the University of Akron, we're experimenting. We're interested in doing things, and I think some of the ideas here, particularly about externships and clinical programs, are something that's going to be very useful to our school."
Bowers said those types of experiences are exactly what will help future law school students.
"I think there are certain limitations to law schools and to what they can do in three years. I think the dialog that is going on here today, and with clinical and experiential programs and the development of those, has been a great start," Bowers said. "I'm not sure at this point that they could cram much more in three years. I'm a very big proponent of a fourth year residency or the equivalent of something like that."