Monday, July 1, 2013

CLEA petitions ABA to require law schools to provide 15 credits of experiential learning,

The Clinical Legal Education Association ("CLEA") issued a press release today in which it announced that it has petitioned the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to adopt a regulation requiring law schools to mandate 15 credits of experiential learning, including a clinic or externship, in law school, as is being contemplated in California (and here). From CLEA's press release:

Today, the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA), the nation’s largest association of law professors, formally petitioned Council of the American Bar Association’s Section for Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to amend its law school accreditation standards to require every J.D. law student to complete the equivalent of at least 15 semester credit hours after the first year of law school in practice-based, experiential courses, such as law clinics, field placements, or skills simulation courses, with at least one course in a law clinic or externship.

Repeated ABA studies have shown the need to enhance significantly the professional skills training of students in law schools. However, the Section has done very little to address these persistent calls for reform. Current law school accreditation standards only require a single credit of experiential learning out of an average of 89 total academic credits, a dismal 1% of a law student’s preparation for practice. Other professions (such as medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary, social work, etc.) require that at least one quarter, and up to more than one half, of a
graduate’s pre-licensing education be in role in supervised professional practice.

The Council has a duty, as the agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education for the accreditation of law schools, to ensure that its standards meet the training needs of law students and the interests of the public. CLEA contends that the present standards do not adequately prepare students for the practice of law and that 15 hours of professional experience (representing about one-sixth of a student’s total credit hours) are certainly the minimum necessary to ensure that law school graduates are competent to begin practicing law. Concerned that the ABA was not doing enough, the California State Bar Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform recently proposed a similar pre-admission practical skills training program
for all law students seeking admission to the California bar.

Kate Kruse, president of CLEA, said, “We hope this will be an opportunity for the ABA to take a leadership role in pressing law schools to take seriously their responsibility to prepare students for the practice of law.”

CLEA’s petition to the ABA is available at:


Click here for a report from CLEA in support of the petition that notes the primacy of experiential learning in other professional disciplines like medicine, dentistry and social work, and debunks the claim that mandatory clinical courses increase the cost of tuition compared to law schools that don't have such a required.

Hat tip to Professor Robert R. Kuehn.


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