By Megan E. Davis
As a small group within The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers Division works to refine the details of the resident at law concept, the forward-thinking notion of one Florida lawyer is attracting attention on a national level.
The premise of a legal residency mirrors its well-established counterpart in the medical field by allowing recent law graduates to train under an experienced attorney before embarking on their own.
A year after Laird Lile created a resident at law program in his firm in Naples, Florida’s YLD in September began exploring opportunities for similar programs throughout the state, said Paige Greenlee, YLD president.
“Laird came up with the idea and I can’t be more grateful,” she said. “I’m excited about anything we can do to get new graduates into positions for good mentoring and training . . . . Law schools teach students how to think, but not how to practice law.”
Since the idea began circulating, Greenlee said she receives multiple inquiries per day by phone and email.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” she said. “It seems to just keep growing and growing. I could see this turning into something that becomes a mandatory requirement after law school. Especially if you’re going to be hanging your own shingle, there’s nothing that compares to experience with a seasoned practitioner willing to mentor you.”
The ABA Journal recently published an article about Lile’s program and Greenlee planned to speak about Florida’s efforts at the ABA Young Lawyers Division Fall Conference in Charleston, S.C.
“It’s an idea I’ve never heard of or thought of before,” said Andrew Schpak, secretary-treasurer and 2014-15 chair-elect of the ABA YLD. “If it helps get more recent graduates actually practicing law and getting practical experience, that’s huge.”
Currently, Schpak said he’s most actively discussing the idea in his capacity as a member of the Oregon State Bar’s Legal Job Opportunity Task Force.
“I’m intrigued by it and definitely open to exploring the idea,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be implemented carefully because it has the potential to impact starting salaries for regular legal jobs.”
Meanwhile, Greenlee and Florida YLD board members Benjamin Diamond and Stephanie Bolton have teamed up to promote the idea in Florida.
The group is creating a webinar on how a resident at law program works and how to establish one.
“We’ve had a lot of people reach out to us,” Greenlee said. “Trying to figure out how to get information disseminated is the next challenge.”
At press time, a time frame for finishing the webinar had not been set, but once completed, Greenlee said it would be available at
Greenlee said the group also contacted Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company for support, possibly by lowering insurance premiums for residents.
“It’s still very early in terms of development of the program, so we can’t say specifically what kind of support we can provide,” said William H. Robbinson, Jr., president and CEO of FLMIC. “We are happy and proud to encourage any programs that improve lawyer competency.”
Greenlee said the group also hopes recent graduates will help generate interest among practitioners.
“We’d like to work with law schools to teach some of the students, especially third-years, about this program and provide some information so that they can sell it when they’re doing courtesy interviews,” she said. “If a firm says it’s not thinking of hiring, they can say ‘what about a resident at law program?’”
Lile said he’s pleased to see growing interest in the idea.
“I’m thrilled that the program is getting meaningful attention,” he said.
“Not a week goes by without me receiving two or three inquiries, and I’m very excited for the sake of the profession and for the public . . . . Just like most people would not want to see a doctor that’s not trained under experienced physicians, the public is better served if the lawyers they see have the benefit of training.”