The creation of a Lawyers’ Justice Corps can immediately address two crises in the legal profession:
The Lawyers' Justice Corps addresses these needs by helping states develop an alternative to the traditional bar exam for licensing lawyers. This additional pathway rigorously tests attorney competence without relying on flawed high-stakes exams that increase costs and lengthen the time needed to enter the profession. The Justice Corps pathway to licensure attracts law graduates to public interest positions and allows them to serve disadvantaged clients more quickly, helping to close the justice gap.
The Justice Corps licensing path would supplement other pathways to licensure. Jurisdictions would continue offering the traditional bar exam and licensing most lawyers through that process. The Justice Corps would offer an alternative for candidates who choose that pathway and satisfy the eligibility requirements. For those candidates, the Lawyers’ Justice Corps will provide a pathway that both protects and serves the public.
California maintains a program, the Provisional Licensure Program, that allows some law graduates to practice with provisional licenses under a licensed lawyer's supervision. Candidates in one branch of the program can use that supervised practice to demonstrate their minimum competence. Although California’s program differs from the Lawyers’ Justice Corps in some respects, it offers key insights into operation of a Justice Corps pathway. Deborah Jones Merritt, Andrea Curcio, and Eileen Kaufman studied data from California’s program and discovered that:
As the researchers’ report reveals, numerous candidates commented on the program’s importance to them, and many supervisors observed that the candidates in this program were more competent than some peers who had passed the bar exam. The research report is available here.
The researchers are now examining a subset of the data limited to organizations that would qualify to participate in a Lawyers' Justice Corps. That data shows:
The Lawyers’ Justice Corps will advance core values of the legal profession. It will protect the public with bar licensure based on proven competence; facilitate career pathways for lawyers committed to full-time social justice work; and demonstrate a jurisdiction’s commitment to both access to justice and thoughtful, nondiscriminatory licensing. For more information, see these resources: