Law practice incubators have emerged in recent years in response to several factors, including a decrease in the number of attorney jobs, an increasing recognition that new lawyers have not been educated in the practical skills required to practice law, and the chronic, pervasive lack of affordable legal services available to low and moderate-income people. Providing adequate legal assistance to those who cannot afford it has long been a challenge for the legal profession. The economic downturn in recent years has brought added urgency to that challenge, and this topic is now at the forefront of discussions on the future of the profession, both nationally and internationally. Millions of Pakistanis need but cannot afford lawyers, and there has never been a better time to think creatively about the solutions.
Under its Professional Excellence Program for Lawyers, PJN has recently conducted a baseline study that analyzes the perceptions that young lawyers have regarding the development of professional excellence and responsibility in the early years of their practice and how they feel about the need for legal incubator programs in Pakistan. This study also gauges the challenges that young lawyers face in the courts, their professional needs as fresh lawyers and how we can best utilize their potential for building a culture that enhances pro bono/low bono work in Pakistan.
Based on the findings of its baseline study, PJN has decided to establish an incubator for fresh lawyers and the first ever National Legal Incubator Forum and Advisory Committee. The Forum is made up of representatives of law colleges and universities from across Pakistan with its Secretariat in Islamabad. International Advisory Board member Dr. Fred P. Rooney will provide technical assistance for the development of PJN’s incubator and Forum. His work in the advancement of post-graduate legal education and the powerful incubator that he began in 2007 are forcing law schools to rethink their responsibility to their graduates and to the millions of individuals in the US who lack access to justice. His work demonstrates his lifelong commitment to social justice in the United States, around the globe and specifically to the Pakistani legal system and the people it is designed to protect.
If any law college or university is interested in the development of a legal incubator program for its law graduates but needs technical assistance to do so, PJN is happy to invite you to be part of the National Legal Incubator Forum and its Advisory Committee. Joining national forum will also provide you with direct connections to incubator programs in the US and in different parts of the world.
If you aren’t familiar with the term “incubator,” it’s essentially a training program to help lawyers who are interested in starting their own firms. An incubator is a post-graduate program to support and assist law school graduates in starting their own solo, small firm, or non-profit practices. Incubator participants receive the infrastructure and basic training needed to get their practices up and running, and serve the local community’s legal needs at an affordable cost. Most of the programs last between 1-2 years, and are completed after law school and the bar exam. The incubator typically provides shared office space, technology, other resources, and mentorship in exchange for a low monthly fee. The attorneys get guidance on the basics of business and marketing, and provide affordable legal services to underserved communities as well as pro bono hours.
A law practice incubator provides a work environment where incubator attorneys can gain experience in the practice of law and knowledge about how to manage a law practice. In an incubator, newer attorneys provide legal services while being mentored, supervised, and taught by experienced attorneys. Most incubators require pro bono service and emphasize creating a practice around service to low and moderate income people. Ideally, upon completion of the program, incubator graduates will be able to launch a sustainable law practice, providing affordable services in communities where there is a need for their services.
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