Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Currier: Optimizing The Law School Curriculum For The 21st Century

Barry Currier (Managing Director, ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar), Optimizing the Law School Curriculum for the 21st Century:

CurrierJ.D. programs are not likely to expand. If anything, the discussion is about reducing the number of credits required for graduation and shortening the period of study. Yet, there is consistent and persistent conversation about courses or general topics that should be added to what the ABA Standards require. Within the framework of the J.D. degree, what courses or topics should be required by the ABA Standards? Beyond the Standards’ basic requirements, what more, and how much more should schools choose to require? What is the optimal curriculum for schools to require within an 83-90 credit program that stretches over 2+ years? If something new should be added and it is not likely that will be accomplished by increasing the number of units needed to graduate, what will be given up?

Currently, the ABA Standards require only ten credits.[2] Nothing in the Standards requires, specifically, courses in contracts, property, criminal law, torts, or civil procedure, though most schools require them in some form or fashion. Many law schools require more than 10 credits, including credits for some of these basic 1L courses. The more prescriptive the Standards are with respect to the curriculum, however, the less space there is for a law school to design a program that best suits its graduates and markets. ...

There is more law to learn, but the law school envelope is not likely to expand to provide more time to learn it. And, there are lots of other matters that a J.D. program needs to address these days. From the Section’s perspective, we need to consider the following questions. How shall we reorganize what we require of every law school’s program in the Standards, given the differences among the schools? If minimizing what the Standards require maximizes flexibility for law schools with varying missions, resources, and opportunities for their graduates, what more should the Standards include to assure the Council and, thereby, courts and the public, that law schools are using that flexibility in appropriate ways that merit a school’s continuing accreditation? For law schools, how should they revise and restructure their J.D. program to most wisely use the limited amount of time they have to prepare their particular students for meaningful and satisfying careers, as lawyers or otherwise.

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