Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wall Street Journal talks to chair of new ABA task force on future of legal ed.

Yesterday we told you about the ABA's decision to form a task force to examine the future of legal education in light of the rapid changes overtaking law practice.  The Wall Street Journal Law Blog recently interviewed the new committee's chair, the Honorable Randall T. Shepard - former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, about several topics including what the committee hopes to accomplish, what skills law schools should be teaching students and what factors to consider when deciding whether to attend law school in the "new normal."

Some relevant excerpts:

[Law Blog]: What is the concrete product the task force hopes to produce?

Mr. Shepard: I expect we will produce a report and a series of recommendations that will be in the end reviewed by the governing body of the American Bar Association. It’s our assignment to do our best to understand these trends and devise as many solutions or sensible actions as we can identify and put those on the table for the profession as a whole to debate and to accept or not.

. . . .

LB: Law school deans are increasingly talking about and making changes to better prepare students for the more practical aspects of practicing law. What are the skills law schools ought to focus on most heavily?

Mr. Shepard: The first thing to say about that is the emphasis on skills and hands on experiences has been underway very seriously for at least 15 years and has been promoted by the American Bar Association. I would say the most dramatic change in the American legal education in the last 15 years has been expanding the opportunities students have for real life experiences in clinics and internships. Everyone I know thinks that’s a good thing and it has made a difference.

. . . .

LB: What are the major factors law school applicants should weigh when choosing a law school?

Mr. Shepard: I think someone who has made the basic decision that he or she wants to become a lawyer ought to pay attention both to learning the substance of law and getting a head start on the practice of law. Put another way, I think clients are best served by lawyers who both know the law of contracts or torts or criminal law, and also have had some introduction as to how one deploys that law in advising or representing clients. Law schools are both places where you sort of learn the basics of legal doctrine and also acquire some understanding of what it is lawyers do all day. The best law schools try to give students a healthy dose of both.

Read the full fireside chat here.


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