American Bar Association / ABA, Law Schools, Politics, Student Loans

Not So Fast, ABA — Chuck Grassley Isn’t Letting You Off the Hook

You've got to be kidding me with this...

In mid-July, we wrote about Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his quest to get answers from the American Bar Association about the future of legal education in this country. Grassley’s inquiry came on the heels of a similar request from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Steven Zack of the ABA responded quickly, making sure to pass a great deal of the blame off on the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Grassley was apparently unimpressed with the response he received from the ABA, so last week he fired back with a shorter (and snarkier) list of questions.

Recall that Zack’s last response to Grassley touted that “no one could be more focused on the future of our next generation of lawyers than the ABA.” Will those be Zack’s famous last words in this debate?

In his latest missive to the ABA, Grassley has just ten questions that he wants answered, all which relate to the ABA’s regulation of law schools, law student debt, and law school accreditation. He wants a response by August 22, 2011.

It seems, though, that Grassley is having trouble wrapping his mind around the ABA’s commitment to the next generation of lawyers in this country when it is apparent that the organization is doing next to nothing to assist them. To that end, Grassley does a very good job of pointing out inconsistencies in the ABA’s statements.

For example, when focusing on the retention of merit-based scholarships, Grassley notes that in its last response, the ABA stated that it was “do[ing] everything possible” to help law students understand what they need to do in order to retain those scholarships.

Yeah, and if by that the ABA meant condoning the bait-and-switch nature of some of these scholarship programs, then they were spot on. Grassley writes:

Has the ABA examined solutions to swiftly increase transparency in what appears to be a rapidly growing problem for law students?

How does requiring mere adherence to a minimal notice standard “do everything possible” to assist the next generation of law students in making educated choices about actions which could lead to over $100,000 in debt?

And in this letter, Grassley again speaks about student-loan default rates and their impact on taxpayers. If the legal job market is faltering, why isn’t the ABA doing more to incorporate employment data into the accreditation of law schools? Oh, because universities like money up front, and don’t really care if law students are left in the poorhouse after the fact? You don’t say.

I imagine that Zack’s head is spinning as the ABA tries to find a way to craft answers to Grassley’s questions that don’t actually provide any answers. Because honestly, when your organization does a better job of serving the interests of law schools over law students and lawyers, you probably have to get more than a little creative.

Senator joins debate over law schools’ graduate employment data [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Earlier: ABA Claims It Lacks Authority To Stop Proliferation Of Law Schools. And Claims It Doesn’t Matter Anyway.
And Now The ABA Has Bi-Partisan Pressure To Actually Regulate Law Schools

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