Thursday, April 25, 2013
Chronicle of Higher Education: Accountability and Flexibility Are Said to Be Keys to the Crisis in Legal Education:
Finding solutions to the problems plaguing legal education will require holding law schools accountable while giving them the flexibility to craft strategies to educate lawyers who can find jobs, pay off their debts, and serve the millions of people who can't afford legal services.
That's the closest to a consensus that the ABA's legal-education task force seemed to reach during a morning-long discussion that was broadcast online on Wednesday.
The panel kicked off a daylong conference at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law. The proceedings will be posted on the task force's Web site.
Jay Conison, dean of the Charlotte School of Law, moderated the morning's discussion, citing the "tremendous challenges and anxieties" facing legal education.
Among other ideas that have been floated as ways to make legal education less costly and services more affordable, experts have proposed:
- Shortening law school from three years to two.
- Allowing law schools to rely more on distance education.
- Testing students on a series of competencies as they progress through law school and allowing those who reach a certain level to work as legal technicians.
The panel hopes to have a draft report ready by August or September to submit for approval by the ABA's governing body by November.
National Law Journal: ABA Panel Struggles for Answers on Law School Reform:
It turns out that if you ask 30 different law professors, practitioners, judges and bar association leaders how to fix legal education, you'll get about 30 different answers.
The lack of consensus about what ails law schools and how to fix them was on display Wednesday during a daylong conference hosted by the ABA's Task Force on the Future of Education.
Participants in the forum struggled for agreement about what is driving the rising costs of legal education—or about how schools and regulators should respond to declining job prospects for new lawyers and flagging interest in law degrees.
"What the task force is doing is very difficult politically. It's very difficult conceptually. And its very difficult pragmatically," said Valparaiso University School of Law dean Jay Conison, the task force's reporter. ...
The task force hopes to release preliminary recommendations during the late summer or early fall, with a final report to follow in mid-November, said former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, its chairman. Members already have heard from several hundred people in public hearings and through written comments, he said. ...
The wide-ranging discussion,held at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, veered from whether to use the ABA's law school accreditation standards to force change, to whether a law degree is even necessary for many of the emerging jobs in the legal industry.
The attendees also appeared to struggle with whether the task force's mission lies with the needs of law schools, the larger profession or the broader society. When asked specifically what should be done, the responses fell across the board.
Some said law schools should be required to spell out the core competencies that students should develop at set points during their legal educations; others, that tuition reduction was the first priority. Several attendees endorsed higher teaching loads. No single idea dominated.
The ABA's accreditation standards were a major focus. However, no consensus emerged about whether to relax the standards in order to give law schools more room to experiment with curricula, or to tighten them to force specific changes. ...
At several points throughout the day, panelists and task force members discussed the idea of a tiered system of legal education that students could exit at different levels depending on their career aspirations.