Recent news and articles on www.OKbar.org

News & Press Releases

Legal Intern Committee Proposes Rule Changes and Issues Regulation Changes

By Terrell Monks

Chief Justice Combs has strongly encouraged the OBA Legal Intern Committee to review the rules under which our Licensed Legal Interns are allowed to practice, in part to enhance access to justice for those who might otherwise be unrepresented. Below is a part of the ongoing effort to review our rules with this charge in mind.

Part of the review process has been to receive input from the law schools to identify where our interns and their supervising attorneys have had difficulty in complying with the rules and maintaining the limited license of the intern. Some of the changes below are an effort to address the concerns we heard. We have also recognized that the current rules were written with the stated goal of teaching “trial advocacy.” Our perception is that many of the attorneys who would be willing to employ licensed interns do not focus their practice on trial advocacy. Some of our committee members have shared the observation that trial advocacy has become, or is becoming, a specialized area of practice. Therefore, some of the proposed changes reflect that our interns may experience excellent learning opportunities in the practice of law with firms that rarely, if ever, take cases to trial.

The first amendment proposed below is offered to broaden the purpose of the program from trial advocacy and professional ethics to include training in “the practice of law” in a broader sense. We have also suggested by our change to the last sentence of the Purpose section of the rules that it is appropriate for an employing attorney to anticipate that additional clients would be accepted that might not have been accepted without access to the services of a Licensed Legal Intern. We would like thereby to encourage practitioners to accept cases that would not be financially feasible for the attorneys to prosecute, had they not used a licensed intern to accomplish much of the work for such a matter.

PROPOSED REVISION

Rule 1.1 Purpose
The purpose of these rules is to provide supervised practical training in the practice of law, trial advocacy, and professional ethics to law students and to law graduates who have applied to take the first Oklahoma Bar Examination after graduation. The Legal Internship Program is not for the purpose of, nor to be used solely as, a vehicle to secure new or additional clients for the supervising attorney (see Interpretation 96-1).

(Note: The word solely has been added to Rule 1.1 with an underline for emphasis.)

PROPOSED REVISION

Rule 4.2 Minimum Criteria for Law School Programs
(a) All Licensed Legal Internship Programs shall be directed toward assuring the maximum participation in court the practice of law by the Licensed Legal Intern.

There was voiced by the law school staff a concern that it is difficult for many attorneys to assure that their intern had a sufficient number of hours in the courtroom. Some of our practitioners advise us that it is a very rare month when the supervising attorney has 8 hours in the courtroom in the month. Given that the interns are primarily part-time employees, their difficulty in accumulating 8 hours in the courtroom is quite significant. The consensus of the committee is that this is a trend that it likely to continue, and may increase over time. Therefore, we have moved to reduce the number of hours that a Licensed Legal Intern must spend in the courtroom.

PROPOSED REVISION

Rule 7.2 In-Court Practice Requirement
The Licensed Legal Intern who is working for a practicing attorney, district attorney municipal attorney, attorney general, or state governmental agency shall have at least eight (8) four (4) hours per month of in-court experience. Such experience may be obtained by actual in-court participation by the Licensed Legal Intern or by actually observing the supervising attorney or other qualified substitute supervising attorney in courtroom practice.

On April 11, 2017, the Legal Intern Committee voted in favor of the proposed revisions to Legal Intern Rules 1.1, 4.2, and 7.2, as stated above. On May 19, 2017, the proposed revisions were submitted to the Board of Governors and approved to submit to the Supreme Court for consideration, after being published for comment.

You may email comments or questions to Legal Intern Committee Chair Terrell Monks at LLIComments@okbar.org. The deadline for submitting comments will be July 10, 2017.