Sunday, January 5, 2014

What I Would Like to See Happen in Legal Education in 2014

1. I would like to see the ABA adopt the proposal, which it recently sent out for notice and comment,  to require 15 hours of experiential credit.  (15 hours of clinics, simulations, or externships).  This is the best thing that the ABA can do to move legal education from the 19th century to the 21st century.  The California bar has already adopted a similar requirement, and this requirement will have a significant effect on law schools even if the ABA doesn't approve its proposal.

2. I would like to see law schools end the merit scholarships that are funded by the tuition of students at the bottom of the class.  (I am not the only one who would like to see this happen in 2014.  For example BLS Dean Nick Allard declared, "[In 2014] Law schools will finally begin to attack their irrational and inequitable business model by taking on the heretofore unmentioned elephant in the room, the huge amounts spent on merit scholarships that drive tuition up paid by students who do not receive the scholarships."  (here)  Of course, ending this practice is also a major focus of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education: "Law school education is funded through a complex system of tuition, discounting, and loans. Schools announce standard tuition rates, and then chase students with high LSAT scores by offering substantial discounts without much regard to financial need. Other students receive little if any benefit from discounting and must rely mainly on borrowing to finance their education. The net result is that students whose credentials (and likely job prospects) are the weakest incur large debt to sustain the school budget and enable higher-credentialed students to attend at little cost. These practices drive up both tuition and debt, and they are in need of serious re-engineering."  (here)

3. I would like to see law schools devote more resources to teaching in 2014.  Law schools should hold frequent teaching seminars, they should give professors summer teaching grants, they should send professors to conferences on legal education, and they should reward good teaching as much as they reward good scholarship.

4. I would like to see law schools, employers, and law school applicants stop relying on the U.S. News Law School Rankings.  As we all know, law schools' attempts to game these rankings have had a pernicious influence on legal education, and it is the major cause of the problem in No. 2 above. 

5. I would like to see all law professors use problem-solving exercises and/or drafting exercises in all their classes.  As I have said here many times, students learn better when they apply their knowledge.  (see also here)

I think that all of these things are possible.  Whether they actually happen depends on the dedication of law schools and law professors to better educating our students.  Law schools are here to educate students and prepare them to serve society.  This should be the top priority for everyone in legal education.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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