National Law Journal op-ed: ABA Report Lacking Solutions for Law Schools, by Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean, UC-Irvine):
Task force offers plenty of criticism — especially of faculty scholarship — without practical advice.
Legal education certainly can improve, but the recommendations of the ABA's Task Force on the Future of Legal Education are not the way to do it. The task force released its report and recommendations on Jan. 24, and they are a collection of ideas that will do little to make law schools better — and some would make them much worse. ...
The task force correctly notes that the cost of legal education has increased dramatically over recent years, but it offers no proposals that would significantly decrease these costs. The report implies that lessening regulation by the ABA would reduce the costs, but there is no evidence to support the idea. In fact, a report by the General Accounting Office in 2009 concluded that ABA accreditation standards do not increase the cost of legal education.
My own experience as a law school dean confirms this. I cannot identify any areas where the ABA standards cause us to spend more money. The reality is that the increased cost of law schools is reflective of the overall increase in the costs of colleges and universities. ...
Without much explanation, the ABA task force report repeatedly criticizes law school faculties for spending time on legal scholarship. The implicit criticism is that faculty members are focused on writing rather than teaching. The task force offers no evidence for this conclusion. In fact, at every law school where I have taught, the best teachers are often the most productive and influential scholars. Of course, some professors are not adequate teachers, but the solution is for law schools to create mechanisms to deal with the problem. Lessening the emphasis on scholarship is not the answer.
The task force fails to recognize the value of legal scholarship in the development of ideas, including to benefit judges and lawyers. Of course, plenty of articles and books are written by law professors that do not have practical benefits. But as with basic research in science, these often inform thinking about the law in a way that has long-term positive significance.
Obviously, law faculty produce both good and bad scholarship, as in every field of study. But the task force is seriously misguided in urging that faculties abandon scholarship. This approach likely would not, and should not, be tolerated by universities.
The task force also fails to recognize the extent to which scholarship by law faculty members benefits their teaching. Almost every time I have written an article or a book, I have learned a tremendous amount that has improved how I have then taught the material. ...
Much can be improved in law schools. We need to do much better in preparing students for the practice of law. Unfortunately, the ABA's task force offers no guidance as to how to accomplish it. The task force report is definitely not a blueprint for useful reforms.