Law Faculty Deans Oppose Bill That Would Extend Student Internships by One Year

Extension aimed at preventing new lawyers from entering the field, rather than raising professional standards, critics say.

Most law faculty deans object to extending student internships from one to two years, as stipulated by a cabinet bill co-sponsored by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.

The deans of university and college law faculties blasted the bill at a meeting with Neeman last Thursday, saying the extension of internships was aimed at preventing new lawyers from entering the field, rather than raising professional standards.

The change would harm mainly weaker groups, such as new immigrants and students from the periphery, the deans said.

The internship extension is part of a reform bill sponsored by Israel Bar Association head Yuri Guy-Ron, who was later joined by Neeman. The proposed law, soon to be considered by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, would extend law student internships from one to two years, change the format of the bar exam and create both an internship school and an interns' ombudsman.

Professor Sinai Deutch, vice president of the Academic College of Netanya and the dean of its law school, lashed out against the proposal during the meeting with Neeman, saying it stood contrary to freedom of occupation and would wreak havoc among the interns.

Professor Omri Yadlin, dean of the Sapir College School of Law, and Professor Barak Medina, dean of the law faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, both called for increased supervision of the internship courses offered today.

Dr. Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha'arei Mishpat Academic College, said the problem does not lie in the duration of the internship, but in what it consists of.

"Extending the internship program could mean that, instead of making coffee for the boss for a year, the interns will do so for two years," he said.

Ono Academic College vice president and law faculty dean, Professor Dudi Schwartz, also weighed in, saying the idea of extending the internship program was tainted by the Israel Bar Association's intention to block the way for new lawyers, instead of improving law practice standards.

"Extending the internship will harm the periphery, new immigrants, ultra-Orthodox people and all those who don't have personal connections or a father who owns a law firm. These people will not find a place to carry out their internship," Schwartz said.

But Guy-Ron dismissed these statements. "I suggest the deans focus on academic law studies, which have deteriorated at some institutions," he told Haaretz. "They don't understand anything about the practical aspects of the profession."