It might seem odd that, in these days of a glutted market for lawyers, anyone would be thinking of opening yet another law school.
But Charles Halpern, head of the Institute for Public Representation, a public interest group based at the Georgetown University Law Center, is undaunted.
Halpern, long a prominent figure in Washington legal circles, is leaving to start a new law school at Queens College on Long Island, part of the City University of New York. The school would be the first publicly funded, public interest law school.
Halpern agrees there is an overabundance of lawyers in the conventional market, but that doesn't mean the nation's legal needs are met. He cites former President Carter's assertion, which Halpern is still trying to document, that 90 percent of the lawyers serve 10 percent of the people.
The country's law schools, he believes, are churning out the wrong kinds of lawyers, lawyers who are convinced that the best thing in life is a major corporate merger battle.
"We're not going to compete with Harvard and Columbia on Wall Street," Halpern said in a recent interview. Halpern is looking for the older student and for those oriented to public interest law.
Halpern says his experience at Yale, Stanford and Georgetown leads him to believe that while many aspiring lawyers start out with some interest in working to help those often unrepresented, such as the mentally handicapped, or working to improve the environment, law schools somehow, somewhere along the line, erase that inclination.
His feeling is supported at least in part by none other than U.S. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who complained recently about the lack of emphasis on legal ethics in law schools. In an article for the Cleveland State Law Review, Burger wrote that law schools are producing "hired guns and legal mechanics," and noted that law schools are an "immensely powerful force in defining and structuring . . . professional norms, values and attitudes."
Halpern is certain he will be able to attract highly qualified students when the school opens its doors in September 1983. He's only looking for 150 students a year, for one thing, and the tuition at what would be the first state-funded public interest law school will be only $3,800, compared with Columbia's nearly $8,000.
And he's not worried about attracting nine competent faculty members. The Reagan administration's budget cuts have made it "a wonderful time to recruit faculty" from among the lawyers pouring out of government jobs and leaving public interest groups running short of funds.
The Law School Admission Council, citing a leveling off of the number of minorities enrolling in law schools, last week launched a four-year, $1.2-million drive to attract more minority students to law schools.
According to the council's statistics, the number of minorities in law schools more than tripled from 1969 to 1976, rising from 2,933 to 9,524. But the number has gone up only 1,050 since then, and the number of black first-year law students has barely gone up at all in the last four years. The total number of law school students nationwide is about 120,000.
There doesn't appear to be any specific reason for the situation, but the council feels a massive national advertising campaign, featuring print advertisement in minority publications and radio spots by prominent minority figures, such as actor Ricardo Montalban, might help.
Other spots feature Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Vilma Martinez, former representative Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Damon Keith and former Rep. Herman Badillo.
Rennard J. Strickland, University of Tulsa College of law professor, who heads the council's minority enrollment task force, said in announcing the campaign that the "most important thing we have to say to minority people is: Don't be intimidated by the law school admissions process." Minority students "have a much better chance of getting into law school than they realize,'' Strickland said.
Former New York Times legal writer Angel Castillo Jr. has left reporting for lawyering. He is now an associate with the Miami firm of Shutts & Bowen.
George W. Masterton, formerly with the general counsel's office in the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, is now running the Washington office of New York's Barst & Mukamal . . . Joanne Doddy Fort has been named a partner at Hudson Leftwich and Davenport.