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ABA Draft Report is Hard on Law Schools and Painfully Truthful
On September 20, the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education published their Draft Report. The report is accompanied with a notice that “This is … neither the final report of the Task Force Report nor a document that reflects the policy of the American Bar Association.”
Having sufficiently, legally, and with notice distanced the ABA from what usually comes out in final form, the members of the task force seem to have made some rare observations that bring into question, what, if anything, the ABA has been doing until now, if the law schools are being run in such a manner.
The first key conclusion on Pricing and Funding of Legal Education observes “A currently widespread practice is for a school to announce nominal tuition rates, and then chase certain high LSAT/GPA students by offering substantial discounts (styled as scholarships) without regard to financial need.”
On Accreditation, the report finds unnecessary standards overburdening the system (and driving up costs) and says about the ABA standards for approval of law schools at “it reinforces a far higher level of standardization in legal education than is necessary to turn out capable lawyers (and the standards) … also impose certain requirements that increase costs without conferring commensurate benefits.”
On Innovation the task force pleads that the ABA accreditation system should also better facilitate innovation in law schools and programs of legal education. It goes on to suggest that the ABA should “foster experimentation by law schools and open the variance process and results to full public view.”
On Skills and Competencies the observations are not new but emphasize the much-felt need that “The balance between doctrinal instruction and focused preparation for the delivery of legal services needs to shift still further toward developing the competencies required by people who will deliver services to clients.”
And finally, in an extreme bold step that ensures this draft report is going to be criticized to pulp, the committee brazenly indicates that non-lawyers should be enabled to provide legal services. While making its conclusion on Broader Delivery of Law-Related Services, the report observes, “The delivery of law-related services today is primarily by lawyers. These services may not be cost-effective for many who are in need of them …”