Friday, September 20, 2013

The Official Draft Report From The ABA Task Force On The Future Of Legal Education Is Here

The NYTimes noted that the draft report from the ABA's Task Force On The Future Of Legal Educuation is here.

"Faced with rising student debt and declining applications to law schools, a task force of the American Bar Association is calling for sweeping changes in legal education, including training people without law degrees to provide limited legal services and opening the bar to those who have not completed four years of college and three years of  law school."

This call for change went from a working paper that was released on August 1, 2013, to an official draft report released today. It "recommends the elimination of the rules that law students must have 45,000 minutes in a classroom to graduate and that they cannot get credit for field placements that are paid." There is also new information on "standards on credit  for  work  before law school matriculation, distance education, student-faculty ratios, the proportion of courses taught by full-time faculty, tenure, physical facilities and more."

So what does this mean? "The report is still a draft, to be distributed for comment, then considered at the bar association’s 2014 meeting. If adopted there, it will be influential but not binding on either law schools or state bar associations."

"The overall idea, said James. B. Kobak Jr., a New York lawyer on the task force, was to free law schools to be more innovative and get away from the one-size-fits-all model."

There has been much discussion recently about cutting law school from a three year program to a two year program based on these new innovative ideas. My first instinct was to think about how valuable my own 3L classes were. There were many classes that I took during 3L that made me a better practitioner. I received more hands-on clinical training and took electives like Pretrial Skills and Trial Skills for practical experience. But I soon realized that these are skills that can also be learned on the job. Would it be better for a student to practice litigation in a controlled classroom setting or practice litigation in front of a real-live courtroom on the job? I suspect that it is the latter (so long as there is some actual instruction going on).

It's not that law schools should do away with valuable elective courses, but it is nice that law schools might have more room to innovate and tailor their programs. However, it remains to be seen if this 'controversial' report will be adopted as influential or merely 'die in committee.'




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