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. 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.