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American Bar Association Task Force Examines Challenges for Reform
A report released by the American Bar Association‘s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education, says that law schools in the United States are too pricey and are too much alike.
Not a surprise to those who have been following the task force’s work for 19 months and who have produced a 41-page final report, that reads almost identically to a draft that was released in September.
Chairman Randall Shepard, former chief justice of Indiana, said “When you get right up to the moment of truth, the report wasn’t written in a format that the House of Delegates was accustomed to seeing, The Task Force decided that we could do more good engaging with the entities that have the power to carry out these recommendations.”
In July 2012, former ABA President William Robinson lll put together a 21-member task force, to examine the challenges law schools face and how best to respond. They bombarded rising law school costs and merit-based financial aid over need-based scholarships. The report concluded, that the system harms both students and society.
“For me, one of the most illuminating aspects of the task force experience has been to shed some light on pricing, scholarships and discounting,” Shepard said. “That’s changed a lot in the past 15 years, and most judges and practitioners don’t know that. Offering scholarships on merit rather than need has changed the face of law schools and affected who can go there.”
Leo Martinez, Task Force member and a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, said that while there was a broad consensus among task force members in many areas, legal educators did not always see eye-to-eye with practitioners and judges.
“Part of the difficulty is that many of the practitioners are thinking about the law schools of 20 or 30 years ago, and they don’t appreciate the changes that have occurred since then,” Martinez added.
“It’s not an accident that we have the best legal education system in the world, and some of these standards are what helped get us there,” he said. “We should be examining whether or not the standards are achieving their purpose, not just looking at what we can eliminate.”
ABA President James Silkenat said “As the task force acknowledges, the U.S legal education system is widely admired around the world, but we in the legal profession all must work to ensure that the system remains strong and viable to meet the evolving needs of our clients and society in a changing, globalized world.” For jobs with the ABA, click here.
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