Law Dean at Arizona State Unveils Plan to Create Law Grad 'Residency' Program at Nonprofit Law Firm

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Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law isn’t the first to consider helping new graduates hard-hit by the dismal legal economy establish their own law firms.

But it’s hoping to do so in a bigger way than others than other law schools have previously done.

Dean Douglas Sylvester hopes to create an affiliated program akin to a medical residency for new graduates at what is being billed as the nation’s first large-scale nonprofit law firm for training attorneys, the National Law Journal (reg. req.) reports in an article reprinted in the New York Law Journal.

To be operational in 2013, it is expected to hire up to 30 “resident lawyers” from among its recent graduates. They will be supervised by five or six seasoned lawyers hired to work, in effect, as partners, under the current preliminary plan.

Handling a combination of public interest and small-client matters, the fledgling attorneys would charge low rates for their services as they rotate for up to two years through a series of practice areas, learning both how to provide legal services and how to operate a law firm.

They would be paid salaries and benefits and, as with an associate job at a regular law firm, they could be fired for poor performance.

Any profit would be used to fund scholarships.

“It’s a law firm, in all of the traditional aspects of the law firm, with two major differences—it’s a nonprofit, and it’s a teaching law firm,” Sylvester said.

Although ASU isn’t looking to change the usual system of law firms hiring straight out of law school, “we know there are a lot of graduates who like a softer landing than, ‘You’re out the door. Go work at this firm and figure it out on the job,’ ” he said. “We’re thinking about how to fix that problem.”

Related coverage: “How Law Schools Can Produce ‘Practice Ready’ Grads: Operate Their Own Law Firms” “CUNY Incubator Program to Help New Law Grads Go Solo Is Now a Model for Other Schools” “Mass. Bar Task Force: Legal Education Could Take a Page from Medical Education’s Book”

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