Notre Dame law students received words of comfort and encouragement about their decision to become lawyers from an Indiana jurist who is leading a massive study of the cost and content of legal education.
Retired Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard delivered the Clynes Chair Lecture in the McCartan Courtroom Sept. 25 on the picturesque campus of the University of Notre Dame. Along with Dean Nell Jessup Newton, students and faculty attended the event.
In August 2012, Shepard was appointed chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education. His speech at Notre Dame was his first public address about law schools since the task force issued its draft report on Sept. 20.
“I want you know, I suspect if I were a law student at this time, I might harbor some question about whether I made the right choice and what my future might be like,” Shepard told the students. “I want you to know it is my conviction that society will continue to value capable lawyers; that we do well for ourselves and our families and for society in general. … You should regard yourselves as very fortunate at having the chance to make this decision. It will turn out well.”
The retired chief justice focused the bulk of his remarks on the findings of the task force.
He gave special emphasis to the rising cost of law school, noting to fully understand the causes and provide solutions, another committee will have to be convened specifically to study the financial issues.
Also, while he defended the current model of legal education as serving the country well, he proposed there might be a way to change the accreditation standards so that they empower law schools to innovate.
He also called for law schools to offer more information for consumers as a way to counteract the undue influence of U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings.
After a student asked about the debate regarding the short-term and long-term outlook for lawyers, Shepard reiterated his belief that the law students made the right choice.
“I don’t doubt for a minute that there are valuable employment opportunities for most people who want to become a lawyer,” he said. “If you find yourself getting across a series of hurdles that law school and the bar exam present, you will more often than the critics say have the chance to be a lawyer somewhere doing something.”