The mission of the International Justice Center for Postgraduate Development (Center) is rooted in Touro Law Center’s commitment to a quality legal education that encourages students to examine the moral goals of the law while promoting social justice and community service. As a leader in promoting the moral and ethical responsibilities of the legal profession, Touro Law created the Center with an understanding that postgraduate legal education has proven to be an effective tool to enable new lawyers to deepen their commitment to social justice as they work to develop solo and small firm practice and not-for-profit organizations. Additionally, the Center is a logical next step or extension of Touro Law’s commitment to preparing students for success in a challenging legal marketplace through experiential learning.
Law schools around the world have historically been designed to promote doctrinal learning through memorization and the use of Socratic methodology. Until the introduction of clinical legal education, learning was theoretical and the practical application of law was ignored. Clinical education now provides law students with an opportunity to develop lawyering skills through the direct representation of clients. Under the supervision of faculty members, students are able to refine their lawyering skills while also addressing the legal needs of their clients. Touro Law is proud of its 8 clinics that are an integral part of the educational process for Touro Law students. Unfortunately, not all law schools incorporate clinical education into their curriculum and for those that do, practical learning comes to an abrupt stop the moment a law student walks across the stage to receive his or her diploma on graduation day.
In 1992, the ABA Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession released a report entitled Legal Education and Professional Development--An Educational Continuum (commonly known as the MacCrate Report). The MacCrate Report makes a compelling argument for comprehensively reevaluating legal education in the United States. MacCrate implicitly asserts that lawyers must and can be taught a common set of professional skills and values and that legal education should be a continuum that begins in law school (or before) and continues throughout a lawyer's career. The goal of legal education should be not only to teach substantive law, but also to foster the acquisition of a relevant and universal set of skills and values. Education in the identified set of skills and values, however, must be ongoing. The Task Force also recognized that some learning is best suited to the law school environment, while some develops through a lawyer's years of practice. Significant learning also takes place informally through a lawyer's observations of and interactions with others in the legal community.
Fifteen years later, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a report on legal education entitled Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law. The study concludes that "law schools need to do a better job integrating the teaching of legal doctrine with a much stronger focus on helping students develop practical 'lawyering' skills and understandings of ethical and moral considerations." Law schools do a good job of teaching students analytical skills, but are less successful in teaching skills, a sense of justice, and ethics.
Despite the success of clinical education and the recommendations of MacCrate and Carnegie, current news reports from across the United States and abroad continue to decry the state of legal education and its inability to fully prepare law students for the eventual practice of law. In medical school, students are required to complete an internship and residency before going out on their own. In legal education, law graduates “hit the road running” and have little or no time to hone their practice skills. Oftentimes, clients serve as proverbial “guinea pigs” since they provide untrained lawyers with a chance to obtain practical experience. Unfortunately, a new and unprepared lawyer with marginal skills can do more harm than good when representing clients.
The Center will work with law schools that wish to assist their graduates as they set up and then manage community-based practices that serve the pressing needs of poor, economically-disadvantaged and working class clients in communities underserved by lawyers. The resulting practices, which are personally and professional rewarding for graduates who will benefit from ongoing mentoring and professional support, will inevitably increase access to justice in marginalized communities, using client-centered, community-oriented and social-justice focused legal representation.
In scores of countries around the globe, a lack of clinical programs means that law student have little or no chance of developing the practical skills that lawyers need to be effective advocates. Furthermore, postgraduate support is non-existent. Hence, there is a critical need for incubators and legal residency programs that lend a helping hand to graduates who are deeply committed to promoting access to justice in marginalized segments of their societies. The Center will provide sorely needed guidance to law schools that wish to institutionalize their social commitment through the support they give to alumni. At the same time, the Center will identify effective postgraduate access to justice programs from countries around the globe and then make the information available to law school administrators at home and abroad. A free flow of information that chronicles the effective ways that law schools support their graduates, gleaned from a diverse array of foreign and domestic institutions, will serve as good examples for other law schools to follow.
Components of the Center include the following:
- Collaboration with the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services– The Center works closely with the ABA to support existing incubator and residency programs for lawyers, to conceptualize new models that address the ever-changing unmet legal needs of people around the globe and support access-to-justice initiatives both at home and abroad.
- Second Annual International Conference on Post-Graduate Legal Education, Winter 2015-The Center will cosponsor a conference with California Western School of Law to outline recent trends in postgraduate legal education and to provide technical training and support to law schools, bar associations or other organizations interested in developing incubators or residency programs.
- International Support Center – The Center is engaged in a campaign to secure funding to provide international students/professors/bar leaders and members of the judiciary with the training they need to successfully create postgraduate programs designed to increase access to justice.
- Expanded Clearinghouse Services and International Listserv - The Center is in the process of compiling reports, law review articles, books, articles and other materials that can be used by law schools in the process of developing their own postgraduate programming. A listserv created by the ABA that promotes the free flow of information among its subscribers substantially enhances communication from institutions across the United States and abroad.
- National Training Center- Working in conjunction with other postgraduate law programs, the Center is developing a national training component to provide technical support for domestic law schools/bar associations/state justice commissions and other organizations planning postgraduate programs designed to increase access to justice.
- Nurturing Touro Law Center’s Incubator (a/k/a Community Justice Center of Long Island (CJCLI)- In November 2013, TLC launched an incubator to assist 10 - 12 TLC graduates over an 18-month period as they deal with the professional and financial challenges of establishing solo or small community-based firm or not-for-profit organizations. Ongoing Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes geared to the needs of solo and small-firm practitioners are offered.