ABA task force sees role for many in helping to fix legal education

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In its review of legal education, a special committee led by retired Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard concluded that fixing the problems in law schools will require help from individuals and groups outside the classroom.

The American Bar Association Task Force on the Future of Legal Education presented its working paper during the annual ABA conference in August. It is a comprehensive, 34-page report that takes a broad look at legal education from cost to faculty culture to accreditation and alternative law licenses.

The report noted that the public and private good that comes from training lawyers creates “a constant, never fully resolved tension” regarding what that education should include. Many of the issues considered by the task force were affected by the public and private perspectives, and, therefore, any recommendations must take into account these differing views.

Randall Shepard Shepard

The task force also took a close look at the legal community and the potential ways the bench and bar could help.

“I think we have believed that many parts of the profession might be able to make contributions toward correcting the challenges,” Shepard said.

Much of the commentary and attention to the problems in legal education have focused solely on law schools, he said. The committee advanced the idea that the courts, the bar associations, Congress and the press can all help, especially with concerns over student loan debt and job prospects.

In the report, the task force pointed out through the second half of the 20th century, the legal profession increasingly tried to assign more responsibility to law schools to teach the practical and business aspects along with legal theory and case law. This, the task force argued, has raised the costs and increased tuition.

To help alleviate the financial pressures, the task force said the practicing bar, business organizations and other groups could use their resources to contribute to the education of law students and new lawyers.

The ABA formed the task force about a year ago in response to the changes in the economy and in law firms that were negatively impacting law school graduates. Shepard was appointed chair of the task force. Former Valparaiso University Law School Dean Jay Conison was also named to the committee.

The task force will be issuing a final draft by mid-September and inviting comments and critiques. The final report will be published in November.

Shepard said he was encouraged by the spirit of the task force and the willingness of the members to listen to people. And he hopes the committee’s final report will bring about positive changes in legal education like the McCrate and Carnegie reports did.•


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  1. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.