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Law School Launches Program to House New Solo Lawyers

Posted Oct 25, 2012 9:05 AM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky

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Five would-be solos and one two-person law firm hung their shingles this week on the sixth floor of their alma mater.

Chicago-Kent College of Law's "Solo and Small Firm Incubator" is a one-year program designed to provide real client experience under the guidance of clinical faculty and alumni mentors. The seven participants were selected through an application process which included submissions of detailed business plans for their practices.

"Schools have never really fully recognized or supported solos. Law school is not traditionally geared for that," says Chicago-Kent Dean Harold Krent. "This program provides much more than just resources, it recognizes that a significant portion of law school graduates will be trying to make it on their own."

Kent is among several law schools jumping on the incubator trend as newly minted attorneys struggle in the current job market. Schools that have launched programs include CUNY, University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Maryland and Pace University.

"There seems to be an emergence of interest in incubator, residence and post-grad support systems," Will Hornsby, staff counsel for the ABA’s Division for Legal Services, told the ABA Journal for a story in the October issue. The story notes that the ABA is starting a discussion list and document archive for idea-sharing about incubators, and will host forums for those administering the projects.

At Chicago-Kent, Krent envisioned the program this spring and pushed for its launch this fall. The school and alumni mentors hosted the first all-day training session and Q&A for participants Wednesday.

The law school provides office space, technology and access to legal research tools in its for-fee law firm, "The Law Offices of Chicago-Kent," periodic workshops on business management and practice-related topics, and, perhaps most importantly, a network of committed faculty advisers and mentors to offer guidance and, hopefully, client referrals. In exchange, the participants, all 2011 and 2012 Chicago-Kent graduates, are expected to contribute ten hours each week assisting on cases in the clinic.

"What I really hope to get out of program is more litigation experience with someone who knows what she’s doing," says Rebecca Graham, who founded her own firm G&G Law with friend and former classmate Michelle Green in 2011. For new lawyers, even logistical issues such as navigating federal court buildings are simplified with a knowing guide, Graham says. "Just having someone available down the hall for easy questions that we might spend hours researching, but anyone who has been practicing for a while would know, is a huge help."

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