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March 28, 2006

Montana Public Defender Uncertainty

As the July 1 deadline approaches for Montana's move to a statewide public defender system, it's a little hard to tell what's happening. The part I care most about is what they're going to do about staffing. The last news I heard was that the Public Defender Commission had announced that current public defenders (those who have been employed by county governments up until now) will not be guaranteed jobs in the new state system. I know that probably sounds bad for them, but I also assume that, despite that announcement, most of them will actually end up getting hired by the state. So I'm still wondering: Will the state be hiring new public defenders soon? And if so, will they be considering new graduates like myself? The commission met for the second time this year two weeks ago and I sort of assumed they'd be talking about staffing issues at that tim. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a single news report or press release to indicate what happened at that meeting. Uncertainty reigns.

In the only news I have found recently, one county hasnamed an interim public defender to work only between now and July 1. But come on — are we really supposed to believe that people like this are just going to lose their jobs on July 1?

Meanwhile, I've set up one initial interview elsewhere—the first of what I'm told is a 3-step interview/hiring process that can take three months or more. Great.

All this job uncertainty is not fun, but one thing makes it infinitely worse: The bar exam. For this and many other reasons I agree with Professor Solove: We should abolish it!

Posted March 28, 2006 09:13 AM | Montana

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I read Solove's piece. I didn't read him as proposing an alternative system for declaring individuals fit to practice law. Perhaps it's in the comments; I didn't read them. In any case, ambiv, I'm more interested in your thoughts than Solove's. What would you suggest?

One option might be an expansion of Wisconsin's diploma privilege concept, though that has problems which might be just as large, particularly if the system is applied nationwide.

Another solution that market fundamentalists like Milton Friedman would likely suggest is to abolish licensing altogether. Bad lawyering will be discouraged by bad reputation and malpractice suits.

While I haven't thought about it much, to me the best possible option would be to make a better bar exam, maybe one that focuses more on essays. But what do you think?

Posted by: josiah at March 28, 2006 02:24 PM

Thanks for pointinng out Wisconsin's system -- excellent idea. I think all states should absolutely do that. And off the top of my head, if we don't abolish the bar, the two changes I would make right away would be:
1) Allow people to take the exam any time they want (or one sitting per week, or a couple per month), rather than just two days a year. This would allow people to take multiple exams in multiple states in the same year, thereby maximizing their chances of getting a job in a state where they are licensed to practice.

2) Make the last semester of law school into BarBri. Don't make me pay for law school and then pay for preparation for the exam to practice the profession I just earned my degree in.

That's just off the top of my head, but I agree that if we keep the exam, it should be a better exam. I don't think I'd abolish licensing altogether but I tend to think society would not suffer if we abandoned the bar exam and maybe kept only the MBE and possibly some form of the character/fitness checks. These would be minimal hoops but would ensure that lawyers were "registered" w/a system that could discipline them. Of course, the fact that attorney discipline so rarely happens would be the next hurdle to jump, but that will be for another day...

Posted by: ambimb at March 29, 2006 12:57 PM

Georgia's hiring..

Posted by: Audacity at March 29, 2006 07:46 PM

I am smart auto posting. We are posting from auto machine.

Posted by: Smart at April 9, 2006 11:33 AM

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