|By Scott, Jason|
In conjunction with the
"The percentage of young people, new graduates coming out and hanging their own shingle, is increasing because the job market has been so tight in the last few years," said
It also helps get these new lawyers into the mindset of doing pro bono work and learning to serve the community, said
"We want the incubator program to find graduates who wish to practice in this type of setting," she said. "This type of practice represents regular people with regular problems. In a larger firm, the cost of legal representation may be higher than what lower- or middle-income individuals can afford."
Of the bar association's 1,500 members, solo practitioners account for 5.8 percent. The bar has added 21 such members since the beginning of 2012.
The demand from graduates is there, said
"They don't know how to set up a Web page and network to run a successful business," Lockard said. "And they are not necessarily comfortable drafting paperwork and filing with the court, getting it served."
The new program, which will get underway with training this fall with law offices to open in January, will accept two or three recent Widener graduates. The bar association will provide the
Participants will be required to pay for their malpractice insurance, and they must commit to providing 100 hours of pro bono legal work, which will be coordinated by MidPenn Legal Services.
"We're going to have monthly meetings with them. We're hoping to get volunteers from different segments of the economy," Lockard said, referring to the training that will touch on various aspects of running a business, including tax implications and malpractice insurance.
It's a strong complementary piece to the clinical education offered at Widener, added Meadows: "Students get a little taste, but on a much smaller scale. This is a natural flow from the clinical education."
If the incubator is successful, it could be expanded to include additional graduates who have passed the state bar exam, officials said. The demand for affordable legal services is only going to grow as public funding challenges remain.
"Even though it's a small effort, we hope it will have a ripple effect," Simcox said.
Expanding the incubator will also depend on available office space. Widener is hoping an established track record will eventually lead to some grant funding for the program. <
"Students get a little taste, but on a much smaller scale. This is a natural flow from the clinical education."
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