Recently, I blogged suggesting an overview of the systemic problems with the entire legal system. One of the interlinked barriers that I highlighted was “A system of professional rules and business practices that makes this [legal] expertise highly expensive to purchase.” Now, here comes more attention to a model that at least suggests a way to deal with the “business practices” barrier. Its the law school incubator. Law.com has an excellent article on this very needed idea of law school programs that help graduates transition into sustainable practice.
The concept is spreading:
CUNY’s program was the first of its kind when it debuted in 2007, but now law schools around the country have launched solo incubators, and more are on the way. The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law unveiled its solo and small-firm incubator last fall, and the University of Maryland School of Law introduced its incubator in January.
The Charlotte School of Law plans to have its Small Practice Center up and running next summer. Faculty and administrators at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Georgia State University College of Law and the University of Dayton School of Law are among those considering adding similar programs. It’s not just law schools — the Columbus Bar Association in Ohio began a year-long incubator in April with eight young attorneys. That program makes use of office space and money donated by law firms and other legal service providers.
CUNY is playing a major role in the expansion of the concept:
Fred Rooney, the director of CUNY’s solo-focused Community Legal Resource Network and the driving force behind the school’s incubator, has been traveling the country meeting with law school administrators who want to learn more about the program. Numerous law school administrators have been coming to New York to see the incubator first-hand. Rooney has also visited law schools in Europe, Central America and India to share his experience. . . . CUNY has been providing technical support to other law schools in the form of handbooks, contracts and other startup documents. Establishing a successful solo incubator requires a significant investment in staff and resources, Rooney said.
As many know, this project builds on the OSI funded Law School Consortium starting back at the end of the last century, and it is great to see these ideas live on.
I hope that this concept can spread rapidly, since I think it is one of the few hopes for providing sustainable legal services through the market to low and middle income people. Not just law schools, but the bar, legal aid, access commissions, funders, foundations and non-profits should be thinking about how to support this concept. I would love to see access Commissions setting up committees to work with law schools on getting this concept started in their states. There are so many partnering potentials here.
Please share ideas here.
Update: Article in NY Law Journal on Pace joining incubator movement.