ABA Moves Toward Allowing Paid Student Externships
In 2013, unpaid internships became a major flashpoint. For businesses, they delivered free labor; for students, they provided valuable training and experience. But for many, this free work smacked of exploitation.
Internships and externships were particularly sticky for law students, because the ABA prohibits students from receiving monetary compensation for field placement if they receive academic credit.
That is likely to change.
The ABA Standards Review Committee has recommended a proposal that will allow law students to be paid for such work. The recommendation still has to be approved by the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
According to Jim Lewis, the standard review committee chair, internships have created a gray area for law students. “Law schools won’t place students in the private sector because those employers are required under federal law to pay,” Lewis said. “That’s what everybody seems to believe, and they weren’t willing to risk violating the law. It cuts off large swathes off the world for student field placements.” He hoped that this new rule would “open more opportunities within the private sector” for law students.
The proposal gained steam during the fall, after the U.S. Department of Labor clarified that the revised rule would not exclude unpaid pro bono work in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Students were thrilled at the prospect of finally being paid. Melissa Soso, student bar association president at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School, believes the recommendation reflects both economic realities and fairness: “A credit hour costs about $1,500 each, so why create that extra hurdle for students? Why ask students to pay to work?”
In related news, the committee decided against changing the bar exam passage standard, which requires law schools to maintain an average passage rate of 75% within 5 years of graduation.
Source: National Law Journal