Thursday, June 27, 2013
ABA task force on future of legal ed suggests making students "practice ready" not sole responsibility of law schools
As you may know, the ABA has appointed a task force to study the current "crisis" in legal education and make recommendations for change. While a draft report is not due until the end of next month, during a meeting on Monday, some committee members expressed the view that preparing law students for practice is not solely the responsibility of law schools. Bar associations, bar admissions organizations and state supreme courts must also participate.
While one might quibble over how to apportion responsibility among the various stakeholders - law firms included - I don't think anyone seriously believes that no matter how much the curriculum is reformed, students are actually ready to practice on their own after three short years of law school. The skills and judgment necessary to represent clients effectively take much longer than that to hone.
From the ABA Journal blog:
The task force, which met Monday for the last time before it issues its initial recommendations next month, identified several broad themes that will guide it through the drafting process, including the current system for financing a law school education, the highly uniform structure of most law schools and whether the schools are doing enough to prepare graduates for the actual practice of law.
Task Force chair Randall T. Shepard, retired chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, said after Monday's meeting that the discussion reflected an "earnest concern" among task force members over the rising costs of a legal education and an "earnest interest" in trying to identify steps that schools and the legal profession can take that might reverse that long-term trend.
"I think while there's no silver bullet, a number of the proposals under examination by the task force have the potential to alter the cost picture in ways that are worth pursuing," Shepard said.
Shepard also said that Monday's discussion reflected a widely-shared belief among task force members that legal education is not solely the responsibility of law schools.
"I think the task force recognizes that there are things that bar associations, bar admission bodies, state supreme courts and others can do that might improve graduate readiness and address some of these cost issues," he said.
Most of the group also seems to agree that law schools should be freer to experiment with the curricula than the current accreditation standards allow and that the recent trend toward more experiential learning should be continued if not accelerated. They also want the task force to be bold and innovative in its proposed solutions.
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