Professor Joan Howarth's New Book on Attorney Licensing

Joan Howarth, Distinguished Visiting Professor and Dean Emerita, Michigan State University College of Law, recently released her new book Shaping the Bar: The Future of Attorney Licensing. Professor Howarth sat down with us to talk about attorney licensing and the premise of her research, which was published by Stanford University Press.

Attorney licensing is vital to Professor Howarth because “The twin gatekeepers of the legal profession—law schools and licensers—are failing the public.” She points out that one can become a licensed lawyer without ever being in a law office, and Professor Howarth believes that who gets to be an attorney is an important question. In her book, she offers a comprehensive history of how those in the law have made decisions on who should be included or excluded in the legal profession. “We are not doing the job we say we are doing, which is protecting the public through licensing,” shares Professor Howarth.

“People shouldn’t be practicing law for the first time on an actual client.” She points out that attorneys should have experience in representing clients like a medical professional’s residency program. Having written about the licensure topic since the 1990s, Professor Howarth felt the issue was important enough to fill a book that did not exist. Shaping the Bar was released in December 2022 and is available here.