A new survey shows that law schools in the United States have started increasing their clinical and professionalism programs as a result of the changing economy and pressure from the media and academia. Of the schools surveyed, three-quarters of them noted the ever-changing job market as the reason why they have made changes in curriculum. Two-thirds of the schools surveyed said that they were inspired to act as a result of two reports from 2007 that called for an increase on professional skills and professionalism in curriculum.
The survey shows that the law schools surveyed have increased almost all of the areas of skill instruction. These areas include externships, clinical and simulation. The reason for the increase in skill instruction is because of a new law school accreditation standard adopted back in 2004 that requires students to obtain ‘substantial instruction’ in skills.
The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar released the survey results in an executive summary on Thursday. The entire report will be released prior to a presentation about the survey on August 4 at the ABA Annual Meeting, which is held in Chicago. The brand new survey adds onto an empirical study conducted by the section from 1992 to 2002 examining changes in curriculum at law schools. The survey from 2002 is used in the new one as a baseline in order to track the changes and observe trends found in curriculum at law schools from 2002 to 2010.
In a statement, Hulett Askew, the ABA’s consultant for legal education, said the following: “The survey responses reveal a renewed commitment by law schools to review and revise their curricula to produce practice-ready professionals. The report illuminates the extent to which faculties and administrations have responded to the evolving needs of their students and to changes in the legal services industry.”
The editor of the survey, Catherine Carpenter, said that the data show how law schools responded to the changing legal job market and increased competition as there are more ABA-approved law schools in the country today. Carpenter also works as a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and is the chair of the curriculum committee for the ABA.
“Media scrutiny of legal education, and specifically of the law school curriculum, has also fueled the conversation,” she said.
Also found in the survey is the fact that 18 percent of law schools in 2010 required students to conduct 35 hours of mandatory pro bono service if they wished to graduate. In 2010, 87 percent of all ABA-approved law schools offered joint degrees. The most popular joint degree was the JD/MBA program. The joint program that saw the most growth was the JD/MSW (masters in social work).