ABA to judges: Give junior lawyers their day in court

Signage is seen outside of the American Bar Association (ABA) in Washington, D.C.
Signage is seen outside of the American Bar Association (ABA) in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • ABA measure asks courts to let two lawyers per party deliver oral arguments
  • The move will bolster courtroom diversity, proponents say

(Reuters) - Courts should allow two attorneys to argue for each client in order to give junior lawyers more experience, according to a resolution adopted by the American Bar Association’s policy making body Monday in New Orleans.

The non-binding resolution by the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division said the change would give newer lawyers more court time and bolster diversity, since women and minorities are disproportionately junior in the profession.

Lawyers who have practiced for less than 10 years or are under 36 often handle the bulk of factual review and document drafting, according to a report submitted alongside the resolution, while senior attorneys typically handle client interactions and court arguments.

Clients typically want an experienced lawyer representing them in court, but young lawyers cannot gain that experience unless clients entrust them in the courtroom, the report said. A general decline in trials has further limited courtroom opportunities for early-career lawyers, it said.

The ABA and the Young Lawyers Division have made similar calls before. But pushing courts to allow two attorneys to deliver oral arguments — particularly when one of the lawyers is in their first 10 years of practice — is the ABA’s most concrete step yet, according to the report.

Individual judges have adopted similar policies to bolster court participation by junior lawyers with great success, it said. Judges and courts making such moves can "make the case to clients that junior attorneys should have an active role in courtroom proceedings,” the report said.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com