'Time to raise the bar on lawyers'

Time to raise the bar o

The argumentative Jewish state has the dubious, if not surprising, distinction of having more lawyers per capita than any other country in the world. On Monday, Yore Gerona, the head of the Israel Bar Association, said that within three years there will be some 60,000 lawyers in the country, or one for every 160 residents. For comparison, Germany has a population of 95 million and 100,000 lawyers, China a population of 1.3 billion and 150,000 lawyers, Japan 120 million and 25,000 lawyers, France 60 million and 50,000 lawyers. "We are talking about an unprecedented record which no other country comes close to," said Gerona. "This situation is scandalous for our profession." On Monday, another 1,059 men and women were admitted to the bar, at the ceremony at which Gerona spoke. And more are following in their footsteps. "This year, too, more students have registered for the first year of law in the universities and colleges than any other academic course of studies," Gerona said. Bar association leaders have been worried for years about the burgeoning number of new lawyers. The subject has been raised for years by candidates for senior positions in the lawyers' association, but, as Gerona admits, the association has been unable to stem the tide. "The entire effort to change the existing situation depends on the approval of the Justice Ministry and the justice minister," said Gerona. By "changing the situation," Gerona does not mean restricting the number of lawyers entering the profession. Instead, he has proposed a number of changes aimed at improving the training and quality of the freshmen lawyers. Gerona told The Jerusalem Post that the bar association has proposed legislation to double the apprenticeship time from one year to two, improve the quality of the bar examinations (so that they will not be primarily based on learning by rote but on the ability to analyze cases), and, third, to establish a school attached to the bar for apprenticing lawyers. These changes must be legislated and are therefore dependent on government and Knesset approval. Gerona said Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has been supportive of the reforms and will present a bill to that effect to the Ministerial Legislation Committee soon. So, in the future, we may look forward to more and better-qualified young lawyers - lots more.