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Shepard to lead legal education task force

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In announcing the formation of a special commission to examine legal education, the American Bar Association acknowledged both the growing controversy surrounding law schools and the need to consider a new approach in the classroom.

The mission of the Task Force on the Future of Legal Education will be to review and make recommendations on the state of legal education and its responsiveness to the legal market. Former ABA President William T. Robinson III provided an outline of the reasons for taking a closer look at how students are prepared for careers as lawyers.

Randall Shepard Shepard

“The growing public attention to the cost of a law school education, the uncertain job prospects for law school graduates and the delivery of legal services in a changing market warrant substantial examination and analysis by the ABA and the legal profession,” he stated in a press release.

Two Hoosiers will have key roles on the task force. Retired Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard has been tapped to chair the group, and Jay Conison, dean of Valparaiso University Law School, will serve as the task force reporter. Other members are academics, practicing attorneys and judges from across the United States.

“I think what we might be able to do is identify the best trends and answer the question if any barriers exist to innovation,” Shepard said.

Change necessary

While the economic recession has fueled much of the concerns over legal education, Conison noted that law schools were thinking about how to prepare students more effectively for the practice of law well before 2008. Schools were already shifting to such teaching methods as more skills training, more clinical experience, a more problem-oriented approach and group learning.

Shepard agreed, saying law schools are better preparing students both in the understanding of doctrine as well as in giving more practical experience than they did a generation ago. Indeed, the opportunity for hands-on experience has expanded enormously in the last 50 years.

“I think, in general, the stronger the clinical experience is, the more likely it is that a lawyer will get up to speed faster when she is out in daily practice,” Shepard said. “It shortens the learning curve.”

The ABA’s “A Survey of Law School Curricula: 2002-2010,” released in 2012, echoed Conison and Shepard, finding that law schools have been responding to the tight job market and economic downturn. In addition, a “wholesale curricular review” has induced experimentation and brought change that has resulted in new programs and experiential learning along with greater emphasis on writing across the curriculum.

However, Kyle McEntee, executive director of the nonprofit legal education policy organization Law School Transparency, still sees law schools being put at risk if they do not change. As the federal government gets weary of law students not paying back their student loans, he foresees Congress ceasing to offer assistance to those individuals going to law school.

“It sounds crazy,” McEntee, a licensed attorney, said, “but it’s going to get to the point where taxpayers are tired of paying $5 billion to $6 billion a year” for law school student loans.

Under pressure

Much of the anxiety, anger and fear surrounding legal education is coming from the uncertain economy as well as the pressures law schools are increasingly under, Conison said. These pressures arise from a number of issues including a student body that learns differently and has different needs, a growth in the number of foreign students matriculating, and a rise in the emphasis on international law.

To help people outside the legal community better understand legal education, Conison writes a blog about law schools on The Huffington Post. The general public has an interest in legal education because of the role the lawyers hold in society, he said, but reacting without understanding the complexity of legal education could hamper law schools, and by extension the legal profession, in the long run.

For example, curtailing law school enrollment, he said, could possibly create a shortage of attorneys 15 years from now.

educationA key way to improve the quality of education, McEntee said, is for law schools to rely more on adjunct faculty. These individuals would bring practical knowledge into the classroom, teaching what the students need to know to be good lawyers.

The traditional law school model based on tenured faculty doing scholarship research is contributing to raising the cost of tuition and is providing the most benefit to the scholars instead of the students, he said. Instead, legal education should be focused on the people who are in the classroom and the people who will be served by the future lawyers.

“We’re not anti-intellectual,” he said, noting there’s a huge value in scholarship and expansion of knowledge, but the question is how much should students and taxpayers fund.

Task force agenda

Shepard expects a “huge part” of the task force’s work will examine what legal education should comprise.

In his position as executive in residence at the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, Shepard sees an opportunity to collaborate with his colleagues in the institute and in the Robert H. McKinney School of Law, as well as possibly call upon the law students for help with research.

Conison also sees the work of the task force as very important and possibly having a significant and positive impact on clinical and skills education, law schools and the legal profession.

“I think if the committee does its work, does a good job and puts out thoughtful recommendations, we will have the potential to make a great impact,” Conison said.

Conversely, McEntee argued that the task force should not focus on the “nitty-gritty” of what is taught in the classroom. It should address the issue of cost and look for ways to encourage schools to innovate which, in turn, will lead into the substance of legal education.

The task force is expected to conclude its work in 2014, but Shepard hopes the committee can finish in less than two years. As for how the final recommendations will be received, Shepard has set an ambitious mark.

He wants the task force’s findings to have an impact much like the one that followed the release of 1992’s “The Report of the Task Force on Law School and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap,” commonly know as “The MacCrate Report.” This study, Shepard said, provided the impetus for more hands-on training in law schools and helped spark continuing legal education for practicing lawyers.

“If we do that well,” he said, “I’ll declare victory.”•

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  1. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  2. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  3. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  4. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  5. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

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