New law firm incubator program is open to recent Harrisburg grads
Public Relations - Published: July 10, 2014
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The Widener Law campus in Harrisburg, Pa. will partner with the Dauphin County Bar Association later this year to launch an incubator program for new attorneys who want to start their own solo or small law firms.

The program will provide new legal professionals with Harrisburg office space, computer and printing equipment, training in the work of building a law practice, mentoring, and networking support. Participants will be required to pay for their malpractice insurance and must commit to provide 100 hours of pro bono legal work while in the program. Mid Penn Legal Services will coordinate the pro bono work.

The American Bar Association has encouraged development of incubator programs as a way for new lawyers to secure work while helping to meet the legal needs of poor or moderate-income individuals who have difficulty affording an attorney. New attorneys who are gaining legal experience, while their significant business expenses are being offset by an incubator program, can bridge a gap. They can provide legal representation at a lower cost for a sector of the population that finds the fees of more established attorneys out of reach.

The opportunity is open to 2014 graduates of Widener Law in Harrisburg and will last one year, with new attorneys rotating in as previous participants transition to independence. Two to three lawyers will be accepted the first year. In addition to the pro bono requirement, participants will be encouraged to take on “low bono” work.

“This program is dynamic because it not only gives the new attorneys legal experience and business skills, but it adds affordable legal services to the community,” said Widener Law Interim Co-Dean Robyn L. Meadows, who oversees the Harrisburg campus. “We hope it will build a lasting appreciation for the importance of assisting the underserved, no matter where their careers take them.”

The Dauphin County Bar Association will provide office space at its home on North Front Street in Harrisburg. The association also will coordinate networking opportunities. Widener Law Associate Clinical Professor J. Palmer Lockard II will conduct training sessions for the new attorneys, serve as a mentor and coordinate the technology provided for the offices. He said he is pleased to introduce the law office incubator opportunity to central Pennsylvania.

“Recent graduates with new law degrees have a lot of enthusiasm, but may lack the experience of running a business,” Lockard said. “There is an art to building a law firm, from engaging clients to managing insurance needs and adhering to rules that govern the handling of client funds. This will be a valuable foundation in the budding careers of solo practitioners, and they, in turn, will be helping to serve the community’s unmet legal needs.”

“Managing your own law firm involves so much more than handling a client’s case,” added Elizabeth G. Simcox, executive director of the Dauphin County Bar Association. “Solo practitioners are specialists in their own right, with different needs and responsibilities than attorneys who join big firms, work in house for business clients, or prosecute or defend criminal cases for the Commonwealth. This program is targeted to new lawyers who have a strong desire to work for themselves, and who know there is much more to solo practice than hanging out a shingle.”

Those interested in participating must submit an application by Oct. 1. Applicants must have passed the Pennsylvania bar exam to qualify. Those selected to participate will undergo training sessions in November and December with plans for their law offices to open in January 2015. Participants will be responsible for marketing or advertising their firms.

To learn more, or to obtain an application, contact Lockard at 717.541.3924 or jlockard@mail.widener.edu.