Monday, September 16, 2013


The NY Times has been covering the debate over the proposal to drop the third year of law school in exchange for a paid fellowship. President Obama is in favor of the proposal. We're not.
We've often noticed the disparity between how doctors are trained and how lawyers are trained. After four years of medical school, students who graduate are matched with hospitals as residents  where they practice and expand on their skills in pressurized hospital settings for two to three years. Once their residency is over, specialists begin fellowships that can last another 3-6 years. The result is a well trained doctor able to competently handle human lives. Do the math- a well trained surgeon with a six year fellowship trains for almost ten years after leaving medical school. 

What is the equivalent in the law? Some law students clerk for judges for two years, which can be expanded to four years if they follow their initial clerkship with an appellate clerkship. Otherwise, the anvil of a three year stint in the local prosecutor or PDs office is all the additional training a select few lawyers receive. The rest go to work for law firms that have varying degrees of training programs, and frighteningly, some just put up a website and twitter handle (the 2013 equivalent of hanging out a shingle).
 Law schools already churn out lawyers, the effects of which are price pressures for services in the marketplace. But you get what you pay for. And from our lofty perspective, the sight of poor families squeezing out a few dollars in the mistaken belief that a "private lawyer" will do a better job than a public defender results in lawyers who are nothing more than plea mills- incapable by lack of training in trying a case, and unable financially (based on ridiculously low fees) to afford to do anything more than plea out their client. 

We need less lawyers and better training, and a two year law school provides neither. 

Are their any more difficult cases to handle as a defense attorney than DUI manslaughters? Your clients are often not your typical criminal clients. They are often individuals who are otherwise law abiding and having made the fatal mistake of driving after drinking, are facing life altering prison sentences. Last Friday Judge Bronwyn Miller sentenced one such defendant to twelve years in prison. Central to the sentencing hearing was the defense's argument that similar cases in the REGJB have resulted in sentences of three to four years. 

We don't criticize Judge Miller's sentence (the prosecution, typically, was asking for twenty years).  Every case is different and what we want are experienced judges who are able to evaluate each case on its own merits, and not afraid to give 
sentences  less than the state and the grieving family want when the situation merits it. What we worry about is that this series of high publicity cases will prompt the Florida Legislature to again raise the minimum mandatory prison sentence for these crimes from four years to something ridiculous. All minimum mandatory sentences accomplish is the  transfer of power for sentencing to  the usually least experienced individual in the courtroom (the prosecutor) from the usually most experienced person in the courtroom (The judge). 

These difficult cases help highlight our concern that minimum mandatories are destroying the traditional concepts of american jurisprudence, where an independent and empowered judiciary are central to our constitutional concepts of due process and fundamental fairness. 

See You In Court. 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Teaser pick. . Isn't that why they call it a sucker bet.

The Line in San Diego at Philly is Eagles -7.5. The Line in Redskins at Packers is Green Bay -9. We're going to pick the home team favourites and tease each line down 6 points. Laying 1100 to win a 1000 we now have the Eagles -1.5 and the Packers -3.

What happened to the Eagles. Ouch.

Anonymous said...

She was absolutely right to give 12 years. The travesty is that other judges don't.

Anonymous said...

With DUI manslaughter in Miami it all comes down to the wishes of the family of the deceased.
The guidelines are about 10 years. (120 points for a deceased person) so, the real bottom is the 4 year MM and the average sentence if you plead out and do mucho apologizing is 4 years.

Well.... unless you are a rich athlete then, the bottom of the guidelines is about 1 month.....

Anonymous said...

Alex Hanna ,......opening new and improved offices on Calle Ocho!


Anonymous said...

Bring back Firtel! He's tan, rested and ready to rule!
Join our new facebook campaign now!!

Anonymous said...

Please...the sentence is about what is currently happening to will thomas...the bicycalistos are relentless.

I fing hate the bicyclists, but I guess I hate murdering drunks drivers more....so, I guess I am okay with the sentence.

Anonymous said...

What a whiff with your picks this weekend! Your take on Tannehill was particularly ignorant. Mark the date or the blog or whatever, Tannehill will prove to be the best of his class. He did the most with the least last year.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, internships and clinics should be required in law school. And the disparity between medical school and law school is glaring.

Anonymous said...

We definitely need more residency/fellowship/training programs. Not less.

Your thoughts on the min/mans is right in my mind. However, you're always making a big assumption that the Judge is the smartest person in the room.
Besides more training for attorneys, we also need more stringent requirements for judges.
More years as an attorney, trial requirements, testing, whatever.

Anonymous said...

Miller's sentence was absurd. 12 years on a plea?! For an accident....

Anonymous said...

I'm curious where all of these "paid fellowships" are going to come from. As it is, half the law grads can't get jobs for a year or more. Let me guess the unintended consequence..........large firms and others replace real lawyers with those going through "paid fellowships." Brilliant. Let's add to the glut of out of work or underpaid lawyers.

I note that law grads know little as it is............now we're going to cut a year out of their schooling? You kidding me? If anything the fellowship should occur AFTER three years of law school (assuming a workable fellowship system can even be created).


Fake Jay White said...

How about them Dolphins?
Love the way they stack the Sam on the TE and jam him and rotate dogs with the Will or the Mike - one going and one rotating underneath coverage on the slot when they play cover three. Meanwhile the pressure up front runs the whole scheme.

Fins Up Baby....

Rumpole said...

If you don't see your comment please do not be offended. I may have inadvertently deleted a few pending comments when I hit the wrong button while trying to clear comments on my phone. I apologize. It doesn't happen often and I appreciate all who take the time to contribute and this may have been just one of those mistakes I try and avoid.


Anonymous said...

Guys and Gals, medical students are way, way, way smarter and harder working than any of us - at least through college. Maybe, on a really great day at a really crappy medical school, 2 out of a hundred law students could get in.

Rump, you are off a little - 4 years medical school, 5 years surgery residency (general surgeon), 2-3 years of fellowship - that makes 12 years before a doctor starts making any serious change.

I love our profession and all, but those guys really have to be on it to get into med school.

DS said...

At the PDs from APDs starting to those of us oldsters, The Office has and Continues to run the BEST Training program . You are Monitored by a experienced Training Attorney, guided , taught give training classes in County, DV, Juvy and Felonies. A lawyer will practice 2 to 3 years before not having a Training Attorney. Then there is Monthly Seminars, CLEs, evidentiary & strategy lectures , etc.
The PDs work hard to Train the Attorneys to be able to litigate, Try cases and Think on their feet.

Anonymous said...

Your law school post fails to address the most important point -- tuition inflation and guaranteed federal loans have created a looming crisis.

1. Compare what law school cost most baby boomer with what it costs today, adjusting for inflation.

2. Consider what good the ABA is when it constantly accredits new law schools. How many does FL have now? How many does it need?

3. Investigate what types of students are filling these new law school classes. Are they the best and the brightest?

4. Ponder what will happen when these students inevitably default on their $150,000 federally subsidized loans. Who's left holding the bag?

5. Look into the demographics. Are baby boomers leaving the practice?

6. Ask who benefits from law school tuition hikes? Who loses out?

All of these questions are more important to our profession and our economy than the third year of law school. But if instead you want to focus on that, then visit some law school classes. After years of practice, Rump, explain to your readership what, if anything, these 3rd years are learning that is actually relevant to real practice? They're just more kids, getting ripped off by universities, subsidized by tax payers, for a career they will never have.

Anonymous said...

Rump, am I allowed to kill the messenger even if he speaks the truth?

D.S. Fuck you.

The pds do have the best training program, but the nature of the work of a asa makes for better lawyers after 3 years, even with the less valuable training. First, the recruits are generally smarter and more talented. Second, apds leave the office with no clue how to out a case together or on, which makes them about worthless as civil lawyers. Third, the apds have to deal with turd mongers like you, who are held out as the model of layering. Yikes.

Sorry, just kidding, the office actually is stellar and does have a great program. It's just your tone makes me mad to admit your position is correct.

Anonymous said...

PD's and ASA's both are great training from what I hear and see. After 14 years in private practice I still wish I had worked there.

Wouldn't it be great to use those as part of the residency type program that Rumpole talks about?

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the tone of DS's post. He has pride in the PDO's training program, as he should. That said, the SAO's program is just as good if not better. And, the real life experience young ASAs is much better (they move faster and handle many of their cases against far more experienced lawyers, unlike the PDs who handle cases almost exclusively against ASAs with the same experience levels during the first few years of their careers).

Regardless, both offices doing a great job training young lawyers (certainly far better than law firms) and should be commended for that.


DS said...

I had 2 points I was trying to make.
1. The PDs do a great job of training.
2. Young Lawyers fresh out of La School need real hands on training BEFORE being allowed to handle most matters by themselves. I am in favor of a 2 year residency for Lawyers

Anonymous said...

DS - Jesus Christ quit with the CAPS.

Anonymous said...

Ok, DS and others who support the Fellowship - Residency idea...........where are these guys going to work?

Keep in mind that docs didn't face the incredible glut our profession currently faces when their programs were set up and there still aren't enough docs. We have WAY too many lawyers as it is, many of whom either can't make a living or barely do. How do you propose creating a program that can absorb all of the law grads for 1-2 years without costing a significant number of current lawyers their livelihoods?

I remain convinced that the best way to improve our profession is to close a bunch of law schools (I'm looking at the geniuses in the Legislature who keep opening new ones for all sorts of wrong reasons; another great use of tax dollars). Too many people who don't have the skills to cut it are getting in (and graduating). And, the Bar Exam is hardly a barrier to the unqualified. People just keep taking it until they pass.

I really wish someone would get serious about this issue. I don't think it will happen though. Lawyers are being commoditized and too many of us don't see it.


Anonymous said...

The SAO's office is better training than the PD's? Really?

The entire SAO Experience can be summed up in: "What happened next, officer?"

The hardest things to do as a criminal lawyer, or really as a trial lawyer in general, are to cross-examine and to think outside the box, something that ASA's are notoriously bad at.

I'm not saying that that SAO is bad training, but it certainly ain't better than the PD's.

Anonymous said...

A very old saying in the Metro Justice Building goes: "ASA's are trained to follow office rules, PD's are trained to be lawyers."

Anonymous said...

The math where the 12 year sentence came from:

State wanted 20 years.

Defense wanted 4 years.

20 years minus 4 years = 16 years

Splitting the difference between State and Defense, 16 years divided by 2 = 8 years.

20 years that the State wanted minus 8 years of the split = 12 years. Or 4 years that the Defense wanted plus 8 years of the split = 12 years.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, 12 years for a guy who ran over a bicyclist and dragged that victim's body for over three miles under his car? 12 years for a guy with a laundry list of traffic citations who still decided to get behind the wheel? And lets not forget that he attempted to get his brother to lie to the court and say that all those citations were actually his. Luckily, in the end, the brother was appointed an attorney who told him it might not be advisable to a) commit perjury and b) admit to false reporting to the police on 23878397 occasions.