Last week California followed New York in proposing a requirement of 50 hours of pro bono work for prospective lawyers. Unlike New York’s existing rule, which requires lawyers to serve their time before admittance to the bar, the California proposal permits them to meet the requirement shortly afterwards as well. California’s proposal also requires 15 “units” of “experiential learning,” within such activities as clinics or externships, that can be satisfied either during law school or separately in a private externship. This proposal is an unfortunate one–both protectionist and ideologically one-sided.
First, assuming that units translate to credits, the requirement of 15 credits of experiential learning —a significant proportion of law school coursework—will make some students’ legal education less valuable and likely make it more expensive for everyone. Some students would benefit more from the additional course work crowded out by experiential learning.