To the editor:
I need to set the record straight regarding Curtis Carmack's letter, which appeared on Feb. 23.Carmack, a third-year law student at the University of Utah College of Law, complained about a "Bridge the Gap" program the Utah State Bar recently petitioned the Utah Supreme Court to adopt.
This program would require applicants for admission to the bar to complete certain practical skills training courses. It is his feeling that the completion of the proposed one week of practical instruction and 10 of 12 monthly skills seminars is unnecessary given the education law students receive during their three years of law school. On that point, he is wrong.
Over the past three years, the Utah State Bar has engaged in an intensive study of the need of graduating law students to have practical as well as theoretical legal training so they, as new lawyers, will be better equipped to serve their clients.
The conclusion of the State Bar's Committee on Post-Law School Practical Training was that the emphasis in law school on practical training for law students was not as great as the emphasis on theoretical training and that the law schools really were not equipped to provide that type of practical training.
The committee, consisting of law students, young lawyers, senior members of the bar, judges and law professors, recommended that the rules of admission be changed to require the "Bridge the Gap" training about which Carmack now complains.
Carmack's letter focuses entirely on this proposed additional requirement for new admittees and states that the bar is doing little, if anything, to maintain and improve the competency of established practitioners.
What he fails to mention is that along with the "Bridge the Gap" training requirements requested by the bar, there also was presented to the court a petition of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) for all lawyers who are members of the bar. The Supreme Court granted the MCLE portion of the petition. Commencing January 1990, every active Utah Bar practitioner will need to complete at least 24 hours every two years in certified continuing legal education classes and, in addition, also complete three hours each two-year period in classes in ethics and professional responsibility.
Your readers should be informed that while the "Bridge the Gap" portion of the petition for rule change was taken under advisement because of concerns expressed by law students, lawyers in Utah had voluntarily requested a rule change requiring of them continuing legal education so that legal services provided to the citizens of Utah by Utah lawyers will continue to be of the highest quality.
Given the fact that the bar has been and continues to be dedicated to ensuring that the competence of our members (both new and established) is maintained and improved, I would hope that Carmack, when he enters the practice of law, will support and participate in the bar's Continuing Legal Education Programs.
When I started practicing law 15 years ago, I would have welcomed the opportunity for additional practical training form experienced practitioners such as those who will voluntarily participate in and teach the "Bridge the Gap" program should our Supreme Court grant that portion of the bar's petition.
Kent M. Kasting
Utah State Bar