A stock photo of a court gavel. (Photo by the Tingey Injury Law Firm via Unsplash.)

By John Ruch

The Supreme Court of Georgia is seeking public input on recommended changes to how lawyers are authorized and trained.

Among the ideas are a new law student program focused on experiential learning and a reduction in mandatory continued legal education (CLE) for lawyers.

The recommendations are in a preliminary report from the Georgia Lawyer Competency Task Force released on Dec. 21. Created by the Supreme Court in March 2021, the task force is chaired by Keith R. Blackwell, a former justice on the court and now a lawyer at the firm Alston & Bird.

The report gets into many specialized details of the legal profession but explains them all for a layperson to understand in the context of the importance of public confidence in the legal system. It discusses such issues as allowing pro bono work by inactive lawyers as a way to help the backlog of people who cannot afford legal representation.

Some significant recommendations revolve around a critical view of the effectiveness of CLE. They call for reducing the number of annually required CLE credits and not increasing the number of course hours, and focusing the material on ethics and/or the lawyer’s practice area.

The report also proposes a competitive “Georgia Scholars Program” where second- and third-year law students would do “experiential and doctrinal coursework” with a capstone course submitted to the Georgia Board of Bar Examiners.

The bar exam, the passage of which being a necessary step to becoming a practicing lawyer, is the subject of several proposals. Among them are allowing third-year law students to take the exam while still in their final semester and changing some of the exam’s topics. The report also discusses the pros and cons of the “NextGen Bar Exam,” an alternative exam that is gaining momentum for focusing more on legal skills and less on memorization of the law.

For more information and a full copy of the report, see the Supreme Court website. Comments can be submitted through Jan. 31 at comments@gasupreme.us. The comments will be reviewed by the task force and considered for changes in producing a final report.

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