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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Barry Currier: 'Never Has Legal Education Been As Strong As It Is Now'

ABA Section On Legal Education (2016)ABA, Is Legal Education in or Nearing a Crisis?:

Since the Great Recession of a few years ago, legal education has come under intense scrutiny, with declining student enrollment, rising student debt, a decreasing market for new law jobs and more schools falling short of American Bar Association accreditation standards.

Does a crisis exist? A panel of research scholars and legal education leaders tackled that question at the ABA Midyear Meeting at a session titled, “The Perennial (and Stubborn) Challenge of Cost, Affordability and Access in Legal Education: Has it Finally Hit the Fan?”

Barry Currier, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education, doesn’t think so. Offering a personal view, he said legal education blogs and other pundits have it wrong. “Never has legal education been as strong as it is,” said Currier, the top staff member for the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, designated by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accreditor of law schools.

The panel provided a mix of historical perspective of the growth of law schools since World War II and an exchange of provocative ideas, such as a two-year law school program with clinical externships. They agreed the goal is to craft a legal education program to better meet the demands of the profession as well as the needs of a nation, such as more access to justice.

The program, one of several sponsored by the American Bar Foundation, ran an unusual 2 hours and 45 minutes in order to take a deep dive into the issues and challenges facing legal education today. ...

There was also a consensus that the nation’s 200-plus accredited ABA law schools have also played to the ratings game, principally the law school rankings of U.S. News & World Report. “The increase in tuition costs is beyond belief,” said panelist Judith Wegner, a retired dean and law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law.” “I blame U.S. News.”

Currier agreed, saying the magazine, which ranks law schools annually “has this stranglehold” on law schools and the ratings have an “outsized and perverse effect” that influences “what law schools do and how they behave.”

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