Friday, March 20, 2020
ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Education, Principles For Legal Education and Licensure in the 21st Century: Principles and Commentary: Part III
In Part I of my discussion of the Committee Report, I examined the portion of the Report on the eight systematic obstacles to reforming legal education. In Part II, I commented on the Foundational Principles and Operational Principles portions of the Report. In this post, I will discuss some of the Recommendations of the Report.
1. Legal Education models:
A. ANTICIPATE THE FUTURE.
Comments: As I have stated in my previous posts, law schools have done a poor jump of dealing with developments in the legal profession.
B. IMPROVE THE JD. "Minimal formative feed-back may dampen learning and undermine inclusiveness. Embracing a variety of pedagogies across the curriculum, rather than relying so heavily on teaching from appellate cases, could enhance development of diverse skills. Increasing team-based work and grading, similarly, could better prepare students for the workplace. Other concerns may justify some current practices, but law schools must assess all practices in light of the Principles."
Comment: I have written a lot about this issue in the previous Parts. The key point is that we must do this now; law schools has delayed reform much too long.
C. EXPAND ALTERNATIVES TO THE JD. "Regulatory and bar exam changes would further create the incentives–and in some cases the freedom–for law schools to respond to market reality with new degree programs, pedagogies, and funding models. Legal educators and the profession must embrace the reality that preparation for law practice does not always require seven years of post-secondary education. Shorter, more focused educational tracks are appropriate for some of the varied roles in the legal service delivery ecosystem."
Comment: The only way that we can expand legal services to the poor and the middle class is to change the structure of the legal system.
D. PRIORITIZE EVIDENCE-BASED CHANGE. "In support of this movement for systemic change, we must transform the collection and use of data critical to the study of legal education and licensure with a focus on objective outcomes. This will require a fundamental change in collaboration across all of our institutions."
Comment: I have been saying this since almost my first day on the Blog. (Just ask Jim.) There is a ton of scholarship on how to better educate adult students and improve higher education. We don't need to reinvent the wheel.
E. RE-ENVISION ADMISSIONS.
Comment: This is also a very important consideration.
F. RE-ENVISION FUNDING MODELS FOR LEGAL EDUCATION. "We must find new funding models for legal education. The predominant funding model, as for much of higher education in general, is not sustainable. Tuition dependent institutions are in fact largely funded by student debt. This fact has grave implications both for access to a legal education and for access to legal services. Without finding new funding models, many law schools will increasingly face an existential crisis."
Comment: A vital concern.
2. Law School Accreditation.
A. RE-THINK ACCREDITATION STANDARDS.
Comment: The ABA has handled accreditation in a piecemeal fashion. It is time for a complete overall of the rules.
B. ADDRESS LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS.
Comment: The U.S. News law school rankings have been the most pernicious influence on law schools over the last twenty years. Let's let this year's rankings be the last one!
3. Licensure. IMPLEMENT TARGETED LICENSURE
4. The Bar Exam.
Comment: As I have stated in earlier parts, the bar exam needs to be reformed.
5. Access to Justice. ARTICULATE LEGAL EDUCATION & LICENSURE’S ROLE IN ACCESS TO JUSTICE.
I will wrap up my discussion of the Committee Report in my next post.