On Christmas Eve, last, I asked if the Rules formally adopted by the Ohio Supreme Court to govern the Ohio Bar might be amended to improve the educational opportunities of Ohio’s law students prior to their graduation. Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio, R. II., “Limited Practice of Law by a Legal Intern.” Perhaps, all Ohio law students should be permitted to share in providing formal legal representation to clients when mentored by a supervising attorney. This is something Cincinnati’s current Mayor John Cranley did as a student at Harvard Law School. He participated in a student practitioner program in the Massachusetts court system as a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, as I had done myself many years before. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts permits Second Year law students to engage in supervised civil representation, and Third Year law students to engage in both supervised civil and criminal representation. S.J.C. Rule 303.
Currently, when mentored by an Ohio attorney, the Ohio Supreme Court permits Ohio law students to act as student practitioner legal interns in both civil and criminal matters, and before courts, administrative boards and government agencies. Gov. Bar R. II. Sec. 5. Yet, the Ohio Supreme Court only permits law student practitioners to do so in their Third Year of law school. Gov. Bar R. II. Sec. 2.
Support truly exists for permitting Ohio law students to begin student legal internships in their Second, or even First, Year of law school. Ohio’s law students are usually employed part time while full time law students, as law clerks in law firms, corporations, governmental agencies, as well as in the offices of State and Federal partisan elected officials. Student practitioner duties would not diminish attention given legal studies.
Paid part time legal employment supplements participation in law school Moot Court and Clinical programs. Many students engage in law related employment before entering law school. Both the practice customs and economic structure of Ohio’s legal community would encourage the Ohio Supreme Court to expand upon its own court rules, and those of other States, to permit student practitioners to provide formal legal representation to clients. Currently, Ohio’s Third Year law students may only represent the financially needy and governmental entities, though in both civil and criminal matters. Gov. Bar R. II. Sec. 5.
If the clear majority of Ohio law students currently work in a for profit or personally interested capacity during law school, for law firms, corporations and partisan elected officials, why would an ethical concern arise if their current for profit or personally interested client work product were accorded the formal sanctioning of Rule II legal intern status? The for profit or partisan attorneys by whom they are currently employed are subject to the same professional ethical duties as are the government and public interest attorneys presently sanctioned by Rule II. The due and proper incentive of government should enable students to derive the most from the structure, both formal and informal, of their academic environment during their tenure as students.
We should agree that if law students maintain employment begun before enrollment through their First Year, law school studies would not suffer if they were given Rule II student practitioner privileges for this, or similar, work during First Year. Rather, our theories of client interest and adversarial practice, as the guiding principles of our judicial system, indicate that formal legal representation during law school enhances understanding of both law school studies and substantive for profit work product.
Acknowledgement by the Ohio Supreme Court of the substantive, for profit legal work currently incumbent upon law students in the private sector would enhance the depth of their legal study, and they would then more greatly succeed upon graduation into private practice. In for profit law clerk employment, law students research and draft, with the obligatory duty incumbent upon a practitioner, as do the current Rule II law students with governmental and public interest entities. The formal right to appear in a representative capacity, in deference to a mentoring attorney, allows a law student to fully understand the burden of client representation regardless of the economic status of the client.
Law students rely upon law school course work and law clerk employment to develop required skills in legal methods, specifically, analyzing judicial opinions, conducting Federal and State legislative histories, and the comparative analysis of both primary and secondary legal sources. With the addition of formal practice during First and or Second Year, Ohio law students would make a more informed choice of practice areas, and more readily begin their practice after graduation. Even our best known legal practitioners in Ohio, and we need not name names, would, I am sure, concede that, as graduates of Ohio law schools, they would have truly benefited from such an Hohfeldian right and privilege.
Lori Gayle Nuckolls