Wednesday, August 1, 2012
You can access the full interview here. Pertinent to this blog, Professor Tamanaha says that one reform the ABA should implement is to revise accreditation standards so that some schools can jettison the "research institute" model in favor of one that's more focused on practical skills. Why not let schools play to their strengths? Most will never enter the ranks of the elite schools anyway and that's fine - there's plenty of room at the table (way too much room, in fact) for both types of law schools.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Inside Higher Ed: In what ways would you like to see legal education reformed -- and are any of these reforms realistic?
Professor Tamanaha: Under current accreditation standards, all law schools are set up like research universities. I propose stripping away all of the provisions in the accreditation standards that mandate the “academic model” of law school. This will allow for the accreditation of lower-cost law schools that focus on training lawyers, creating differentiation among law schools, allowing students to choose the type of legal education they want at a price they can afford.
My other main proposals involve changes to the federal loan program. "Gainful employment" standards, like those now applied to for-profit colleges, should be applied to law schools to retain eligibility for federal student loans. In addition, caps must be placed on federal loans, either by capping the total amount any individual student can borrow for law school, or by capping the total amount of federal loan money a school can receive in a given year.
These proposals are realistic in the sense that they can be implemented with a few simple changes, but legal educators will fight to preserve the status quo.
Fortunately, one force for reform is already having an effect. Owing to greater public awareness about the poor job prospects for law grads, the number of applicants to law school has declined about 25 percent since 2010. Law schools are struggling to meet their 2012 enrollment targets, and are offering scholarships deeper into the class. When every student gets a scholarship, that is a de facto tuition reduction, even if the list price remains unchanged. If the number of applicants continues to decline for a few more years, law schools will be forced to change how they operate, and some law schools will close.