Illinois bar calls current legal education system ‘unsustainable’

March 13, 2013
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The Illinois State Bar Association created a special committee to look at how law school debt is impacting the delivery of legal services. The committee’s report was recently released and its findings are unsurprising: debt from law school is a “crushing burden on new lawyers.”

After holding statewide hearings and hearing people’s experiences, the committee concluded that the law school debt crisis is having a serious and negative impact on the quality and availability of legal services in Illinois. The average student graduates with $100,000 in law school debt, which can balloon up to $200,000 when factoring in interest, undergraduate debt and bar study loans.

The report lists the cost of tuition and the average amount of debt law students have from schools in neighboring states. Based on the figures, law students here can expect to owe at least $90,000 on law school loans.

Some highlights from the 53-page report:

•    Small law firms have trouble hiring and retaining competent attorneys because of school debt;
•    Less lawyers are able to work in public interest positions;
•    Attorneys with high student loan debt are less likely to engage in pro bono work;
•    Debt keeps young attorneys out of rural areas;
•    The high debt is impacting diversity in the legal profession; and
•    Those with heavy debt loads are more likely to commit ethics violations.

The committee made a series of recommendations to address the debt problems and attempt to transform legal education to focus on educating lawyers at a lower cost. Those include:

Congress and the Department of Education placing reasonable limits on the amount law students can borrow from the federal government;
The American Bar Association should revise its accreditation standards; and law schools must reform their curricula to focus on educating lawyers for practice. This is something that the Indiana law schools are working toward,  including soon-to-open Indiana Tech Law School.

The Illinois State Bar Association also suggests that qualified law students be able to take the bar exam in the February of their third year, which would mean they wouldn’t have to pay to study for the bar exam after graduation and delay entering the workforce. The Arizona Supreme Court recently adopted a similar proposal.

Here’s a link to the full report.  What do you think about the Illinois State Bar’s findings?

I imagine that the issues facing Illinois attorneys mirror that of most law school graduates here and across the country.
 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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