Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Illinois State Bar Association Special Committee on the Impact of Law School Debt on the Delivery of Legal Services has issued a 55-page Final Report & Recommendations. Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State) provides a helpful summary of ten of the committee's recommendations:
1. The federal government should cap loans available to law students.
2. The government should also impose outcome-based requirements for schools to maintain loan eligibility. A school, for example, would lose its loan eligibility if more than 35% of its graduates failed to reduce their loan principal by at least $1 during a given period.
3. Congress should make private educational loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, using the pre-2005 definition of “financial hardship.”
4. The ABA should modify accreditation standards to expand the credits that students may earn through distance education.
5. The ABA should require schools to gather and report more information about job outcomes, including outcomes over the course of their graduates’ legal careers. The latter requirement would not involve tracking all graduates, but could rely upon sampling.
6. Law schools should focus on practice-oriented courses and teach fewer “exotic” courses. They should also teach law office management.
7. Law schools should include judges and practitioners on faculty hiring and tenure committees. “Practicing judges and lawyers,” the Report suggests, “can provide unique insight into the candidate’s skills as a practitioner and will ensure that the law school hires faculty who are best able to educate law students for practice.”
8. State supreme courts should find ways to reduce the cost of gaining bar admission. Courts should consider allowing third-year law students to take the bar exam, as Arizona has done. They should also consider Wisconsin’s model of granting a “diploma privilege” to graduates of in-state schools who obtain a specified GPA and complete designated courses.
9. Bar Association members should assist pre-law advisers in giving debt and career counseling to students interested in attending law school.
10. Bar Associations should also work with law schools to develop apprenticeship programs that could start during the third year of law school.
- Illinois State Bar Association, Press Release
- ABA Journal, Ditch the Bar Exam? Bar Report on ‘Crushing Burden’ of Student Debt Says Idea Should be Considered
- Matt Leichter, Good Recommendations From Illinois Bar Association Report