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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.