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ABA Legal Education Task Force calls for law school innovation

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The American Bar Association Task Force for the Future of Legal Education, led by Randall Shepard, retired chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, issued its draft report Friday, Sept. 20, with recommendations for improving law schools.

The 38-page report largely mirrors a working paper the task force issued in August. According to task force reporter and former Valparaiso Law School Dean Jay Conison, this draft reflects incremental improvements the committee made in response to comments since the working paper’s publication.

“My view is the task force has taken on an extremely difficult project,” Conison said. “It worked extremely hard and very thoughtfully to attempt to understand both the internal problems and challenges, and the many integrated opportunities for improvement.”

Throughout the report, the task force encourages law schools to become more innovative and increase the heterogeneity of programs. Related to that recommendation, the task force suggested the ABA eliminate or “substantially” liberalize standards that, for example, mandate students must spend three years in law school or restrict credit for paid internships.

The task force report encourages law schools to try new and improved ways of delivering legal education that benefit students and possibly lowers costs, Conison said. How much innovation and what kinds of risks to take will be something schools will have to sort out on their own.

Other key conclusions include:
•    Re-engineering the way legal education is priced and funded.
•    Putting more emphasis on skills training, experiential learning and practice-related competencies.
•    Developing new frameworks for licensing providers of legal services, potentially allowing individuals who do not hold a law degree to deliver limited legal services.

Conison believes the final recommendations of the task force could bring fundamental changes.

“This has the potential of having enormous benefit on legal education,” he said.

The task force is soliciting public comment on the draft report which will be used to help the panel prepare a final report scheduled to be submitted in November. This document will be considered by the ABA House of Delegates in February 2014. Neither the draft report nor the final report represents the policy or positions of the ABA.

According to Conison, reactions to the working paper have been thoughtful and analytical. The task force has worked to reconcile competing recommendations from the public.

Shepard will be talking about the future of legal education when he delivers the Clynes Chair Lecture at 4 p.m., Sept. 25, at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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