Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ABA Considers Increasing Mandatory Clinical Requirement From 6 to 15 Credit Hours

ABA Logo 2National Law Journal:  ABA Reconsiders Practical Skills Mandate for Law Schools, by Karen Sloan:

Should law students be required to complete 15 credits of practical skills coursework before they graduate?

The ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar didn’t think so in August, when it tentatively endorsed a plan to require six credits of real-world training. Now the council has backtracked somewhat, agreeing to seek public comment on an alternative proposal to bump the requirement to 15 credits of clinics, simulation courses or externships.

The Dec. 6 decision revived a debate that appeared dead in August.

The council’s new tack—spearheaded by council member Jane Aiken, associate dean for clinical programs at Georgetown Law Center—was largely the work of the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA), which has been pushing the 15-credit plan since July. The organization argues that the law lags behind medicine, dentistry and other professions when it come to real-world training.

The council has been tracking a State Bar of California requirement that law students complete 15 hours of practical skills training, [Barry Currier, ABA managing director for accreditation and legal education] said, although it’s still unclear how that new mandate will work. The California bar approved the rule in October and will phase it in starting in 2015.

Brian Leiter (Chicago), More Mischief Afoot at the ABA!:

Students who want to do 15 or 30 hours of clinical work should be able to do it; but why in God's name would one require it of everyone, without any regard for that student's ambitions or plans? It makes no sense. ... A colleague elsewhere writes: I look forward to your posts because they are so good. I am mystified, however, that you did not see why clinical faculty want a required 15 hours. You must be more cynical. There are at least 3 reasons, listed in descending order of relevance.

  1. Many faculties are retrenching in one form or another. By requiring clinical work, jobs will be preserved.
  2. Similarly, hiring opportunities will be limited; the proposal would help maintain clinical voting weight on the faculty.
  3. Finally, and altruistically, clinicians want to do more good in the world, and students will help them do so.

Legal Education | Permalink


I should add, more offerings would be great all else equal. Raising tuition for more clinics is a non-starter.

Posted by: HTA | Dec 11, 2013 7:04:10 AM

Clinics are expensive to maintain. Requiring schools to do something that would keep tuition higher in the current environment is insane.

Posted by: Anon22 | Dec 10, 2013 9:20:54 PM

I agree with Prof. Leiter. Law school curricula needs flexibility, not rigidity. More offerings would be great, but they shouldn't be required. I took 8 hours of externship and clerkship credit in law school. The time was misspent. I would have benefited more from additional tax courses or a tax clinic (which was not available to me).

Posted by: HTA | Dec 10, 2013 2:35:35 PM