The law schools at Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern University will launch Lawyers for Affordable Justice (LAJ) — a “lawyer incubator” program —in January 2016 to provide legal services to local-area residents at below-market rates. The LAJ project was awarded an American Bar Association 2015 Catalyst Grant, one of only three such grants in the country, and will be one of the nation’s first lawyer incubator programs developed and run collaboratively by three law schools.
Each year, approximately 12 recently admitted Massachusetts attorneys who are graduates from one of the three participating law schools will be selected to participate in this two-year program through a competitive application process. The LAJ offices will be headquartered in Boston’s Kenmore Square and law school faculty and alumni practitioners from BC, BU and Northeastern will serve as mentors to these new attorneys. LAJ will provide legal services in four areas: immigrants’ rights, employment matters, small business/transactional issues and landlord/tenant disputes.
“These new solo practitioners will benefit from faculty mentoring, which will include advice on how to market yourself, and from the opportunity to develop a legal specialty as a practicing attorney,” said Robert Burdick, Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Civil Litigation Program at BU Law, who will serve as a faculty mentor in the incubator. “The faculty will be able to bring learning gleaned from the incubator back into the clinics in which their current students are learning lawyering skills.”
A major focus at LAJ will be on developing new strategies using technology to lower costs, said BC Law Professor Paul Tremblay, former Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, director of BC’s Community Enterprise Clinic and another faculty mentor for LAJ. “The goal is to use innovative approaches that will allow our lawyers to serve low and moderate income clients, while learning how to build a successful career in solo or small private practice,” he said. “New technology allows smart lawyers to lower costs while still delivering the highest quality legal services, and we’re going to take advantage of that.”
All three law schools will leverage the resources of their respective universities to identify opportunities for collaboration among departments and graduate programs and LAJ. At Northeastern, known for its innovative co-op approach to real-world training, there are many opportunities to work closely with students from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and the College of Computer and Information Science, for example, said Professor James Rowan, Director of Clinical Programs at NUSL and LAJ mentor. “The students’ work on new approaches in business and in designing the most efficient systems can benefit our practitioners at LAJ and their clients,” he said. “It’s a great real-world model for them. We’re planning on developing programs where both students and our young alumni can learn from each other, reduce costs and improve efficiency.”
ABA Catalyst Grants are given to projects “designed to improve access to underserved populations as they expand opportunities to newly admitted lawyers.” The catalyst grants are part of the ABA Legal Access Job Corps, which was established as a presidential initiative in 2013.
For more on the LAJ Project and apply to join, see BC Law’s website.