ABA task force proposes sweeping changes to legal education

23 Sep

Moi has been posting about whether a degree is the best option. In Why go to college?
The societal push the last few years has been to have more kids go to college. Quite often schools are ranked on the percentage of kids that go directly to college from high school. So, counselors are following cultural cues they have received from administrators, parents, and the media.
Chris Stout lists Top Five Reasons to Go to College http://ezinearticles.com/?Top-Five-Reasons-Why-You-Should-Choose-To-Go-To-College&id=384395
Stout places the emphasis on the college experience and the fact that college is not just a place for possible career training. Forbes. Com published Five Reasons Not to Go to College http://www.forbes.com/2006/04/15/dont-go-college_cx_lh_06slate_0418skipcollege.html Some people discover their passion earlier in life than others.Forbes.Com addresses its comments at those folks. The calculation is that if one already knows what they want to do, college could be an unnecessary detour. A US News and World Report article estimated the value of a college degree http://www.usnews.com/education/articles/2008/10/30/how-much-is-that-college-degree-really-worth

The calculation for pursuing a professional degree is different. One must not only look at personal satisfaction, but earning potential.

Tamar Lewin reported in the New York Times article, Task Force Backs Changes in Legal Education System:

Faced with rising student debt and declining applications to law schools, a task force of the American Bar Association is calling for sweeping changes in legal education, including training people without law degrees to provide limited legal services and opening the bar to those who have not completed four years of college and three years of law school.
The report, to be issued on Friday, does not refer specifically to President Obama’s suggestion last month that law schools might limit classes to two years, and have students spend their third year clerking or practicing in a firm. But it did recommend the elimination of the rules that law students must have 45,000 minutes in a classroom to graduate and that they cannot get credit for field placements that are paid.
The report describes an urgent need for change in the nation’s legal education.
“The system faces considerable pressure because of the price many students pay, the large amounts of student debt, consecutive years of sharply falling applications, and dramatic changes, possibly structural, in the jobs available to law graduates,” it said. “These have resulted in real economic stresses on law school, damage to career and economic prospects of many recent graduates, and diminished public confidence in the system of legal education.”
It called the predicament of the many recent graduates who may never get the kind of jobs they anticipated “particularly compelling.”
The report is still a draft, to be distributed for comment, then considered at the bar association’s 2014 meeting. If adopted there, it will be influential but not binding on either law schools or state bar associations.
Randall T. Shepard, the former Indiana chief justice who was chairman of the task force, said that within the group, the most controversial sections were those dealing with how legal education is financed and with the accreditation standards.
The report criticizes the practice of most law schools to provide little aid to needy students, reserving most of their scholarships for those with the highest credentials in part to help raise the school’s rankings. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/education/task-force-backs-changes-in-legal-education-system.html?ref=education

Here is the press release from the ABA:

News > ABA News > ABA News Archives > 2013 > 09
ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education issues draft report on proposed reforms to pricing, accrediting and licensing
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ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education issues draft report on proposed reforms to pricing, accrediting and licensing
By John Glynn
CHICAGO, Sept. 20, 2013 — Stating that the system of legal education in the United States is widely admired around the world but faces serious challenges, the American Bar Association Task Force on the Future of Legal Education today issued its draft report with recommendations.
Key proposals call for changes in the pricing of legal education, liberalizing or eliminating certain accreditation standards, and speeding the pace of innovation and practical-skills training at law schools. The draft also calls on courts and bar authorities to devise new frameworks for licensing legal service providers.
“The Task Force believes that if the participants in legal education continue to act in good faith on the recommendations presented here, with an appreciation of the urgency of coordinated change, significant benefits for students, society, and the system of legal education can be brought about quickly, and a foundation can be established for continuous adaptation and improvement,” the draft report states.
The Task Force is soliciting public comment on the draft that will help the panel prepare a final report for consideration by the ABA House of Delegates. Neither the draft report nor the final report represents the policy or positions of the ABA.
“While the Task Force is not finished with its work, this draft report represents our effort thus far to formulate solid proposals to ensure that legal education in the United States remains viable in light of substantial economic and structural changes,” said Task Force Chair Randall T. Shepard, former chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court.
“We look forward to receiving additional public comment to supplement the hearings and comments process that we have conducted over the last year,” Shepard continued. “Our goal is to produce a final report that will be as comprehensive and effective as possible while taking into account all the views that came to our attention.”
Said ABA President James R. Silkenat: “Legal education in the United States is the best in the world, but it must continue to evolve to match the rapid changes that are taking place in legal practice in the United States. The Task Force’s draft report was informed by a thoroughly open process, which is important, given the gravity and complexity of the issues. The draft report represents the hard work and broad-based inquiry that ABA leadership expected from our insightful Task Force members, who represent a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives.
“We are grateful for the Task Force’s continuing efforts under the leadership of Justice Shepard,” Silkenat continued. “Thanks to the Task Force’s work, the legal community will be able to have a full, engaged discussion with all stakeholders concerning the future of legal education. This is a topic that is critical to our profession and essential to the delivery of legal services in the United States.”
The Task Force was commissioned in July 2012 by then-ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III and supported by ABA leadership, including Silkenat and Immediate Past President Laurel G. Bellows.
To prepare the draft report and recommendations, the Task Force reviewed literature on problems and solutions. It met throughout the year to review and test potential solutions, accelerating its original timetable in light of the seriousness of the developing challenges to legal education in the United States.
The Task Force solicited written comments from interested parties starting in September 2012, held two public hearings and conducted a webcasted mini-conference in April 2013, to which various knowledgeable parties were invited to share information and perspectives.
In addition, the Task Force chair met with the leadership of the Association of American Law Schools and conducted a forum for deans of ABA-approved law schools. The chair and other Task Force members held forums at the annual meeting of the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and the Conference of Chief Justices.
The report is available online here, http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/news/PDF/draft_report_of_aba_task_force_september_2013.pdf
or at the Task Force website. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/taskforceonthefuturelegaleducation.html
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. To review our privacy statement click here. Follow the latest ABA news at http://www.ambar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.
This entry was posted on Fri Sep 20 01:00:00 CDT 2013 and filed under News Releases and Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Whether a person chooses to attend a graduate or professional school is a very personal decision and there is no one right answer. One thing the current economic climate has taught many is there are no guarantees in life, even with degree.

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work.


Should colleges be career schools? Saving the liberal arts education

Brookings paper: Is college a good investment?

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