Wednesday, January 29, 2014
As you probably know, the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has sent out a proposal for notice and comment that would require 15 credit hours of experiential courses.
Professor Mary A. Lynch of Albany Law School has commented (here):
"As a longtime legal education reform activist, I applaud the Council’s decision to approve for notice and comment a proposal requiring law schools to provide at least 15 credit hours of professional skills instruction. This proposal is responsive to: 1) the call for providing added value to students’ law school experience; 2) the need for tomorrow’s lawyers to possess more extensive skills sets; and 3) the complaint by employers that law schools need to graduate more profession-ready students. It wisely recognizes the need to produce graduates who not only know law but can apply their knowledge competently, ethically and creatively to help solve tomorrow’s legal problems. Globalization and digitalization have together so transformed law practice that tomorrow’s lawyers must be equipped with problem-solving, interpersonal, collaborative, multicultural, and teamwork competencies not needed by yesterday’s graduates. In addition, new findings from educational theorists, psychologists, and studies of the brain inform us that real situations are integral to the motivation and context needed for deep learning. Requiring law schools to provide substantial experiential and skills opportunities does a tremendous service to tomorrow’s consumers of legal education and the communities they will graduate to serve."
Individual members of the Illinois State Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Education, Admissions, and Competence also submitted a comment in support of the proposal. (here) As you may remember, the ISBA issued a Report that was adopted by unanimous vote of approximately 200 members of the ISBA Assembly in June 2013. The commentators state that the 15-hour requirement is consistent with the findings and recommendations of the Report.
Quoting from their Report, the commentors wrote, " Many lawyers testified at the hearings that law school did not provide them adequate tools to succeed, and that they needed more instruction in the skills that are required in practice. In particular, law schools do not provide adequate opportunities for law students to practice legal writing skills in simulated or real practical settings. Many law schools teach students to write a basic research memo and an appellate brief. Few, however, provide extensive instruction in drafting contracts, legislation, client letters, press releases, discovery requests or responses, wills, or other documents lawyers are called on to produce daily."
They continued, "Law schools should prioritize simulation courses, live-client clinics, and other courses that give students the opportunity to learn and apply legal principles in the context of real life problems. Nearly every young lawyer to testify to the Special Committee indicated that he or she would have preferred to have more of these courses in law school if they were offered. Most law schools offer these courses, but few law schools offer sufficient numbers of them. [emphasis added] Law schools should ensure that every student has an opportunity to benefit from practice-oriented courses."
They concluded, "The ABA is uniquely situated to galvanize the cooperation that is necessary between the academy and the bar to educate the next generation of lawyers. We strongly urge the Council to take an important step in this direction by increasing the accreditation requirement for experiential courses. That requirement will ensure that all students have a solid foundation of the skills they need to be successful in practice."