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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. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  2. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

  3. Not that having the appellate records on Odyssey won't be welcome or useful, but I would rather they first bring in the stray counties that aren't yet connected on the trial court level.

  4. Aristotle said 350 bc: "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.

  5. Oh yes, lifetime tenure. The Founders gave that to the federal judges .... at that time no federal district courts existed .... so we are talking the Supreme Court justices only in context ....so that they could rule against traditional marriage and for the other pet projects of the sixties generation. Right. Hmmmm, but I must admit, there is something from that time frame that seems to recommend itself in this context ..... on yes, from a document the Founders penned in 1776: " He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

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