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. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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