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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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