American Bar Association / ABA, Law Schools, Student Loans

ABA Finally States The Problem: Now, Will They Do Anything About It?

The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education released a 34-page draft report today about its findings. Essentially, the document says, “Wow, the scam blogs were totally right, we suck.”

Just kidding. I mean, it does finally get to the point of identifying a problem with legal education that law school reformers have been screaming about for years. But, in the immortal words of Sam Seaborn, “Let’s forget the fact that you’re coming a little late to the party and embrace the fact that you showed up at all.”

The top-line findings of the ABA draft report hit on pretty much all of the problems with legal education. But it’s still an open question whether the ABA will actually do anything about this report. I’ll tell you what I find out while I’m at their annual meeting next week, assuming I make it back alive…

The ABA Journal summarizes the draft of the Task Force report. All your favorite law school memes are here:

The current system for financing a law school education, which drives up tuition costs and student debt, is “deeply flawed” and in need of a “serious re-engineering,” an ABA task force says.

And the law school accreditation standards, which impose more standardization of legal education than may be necessary, should be amended to enable more diversity in law school curricula and make it easier for schools to innovate, the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education says.

Law schools also need to do more to heed the legal profession’s calls for more skills training and experiential learning, the task force says.

And state supreme courts, bar associations and lawyer regulatory authorities should devise new ways of licensing limited providers of legal services and authorizing bar admission for “people whose preparation is not in the traditional three-year classroom mold.”

I once saw Kevin Costner on Inside the Actor’s Studio talking about Waterworld. He called it a “flawed movie,” which is probably the most understated moment in the history of that show. The ABA calling legal education “deeply flawed” has a similar ring to it.

But I am impressed by the depth of thought in this report. Take, for instance, the task force’s understanding of how the rush of scholarship money has just put the lowest-performing students in the position of subsidizing more accomplished classmates. From the report:

That shows a depth of understanding of the problem that has been sorely lacking at the ABA.

Admitting that you have a problem is the first step. Actually doing something about it is the next one. And there’s nothing about this report that suggests the ABA will be motivated to act with even “deliberate speed” on these issues. From the ABA Journal:

The 34-page document carries a disclaimer at the top saying it is neither a final draft nor a reflection of official ABA policy. It says the working paper should be viewed instead as a “field manual for people of good faith who wish to improve legal education as a public and private good.”

Sigh.

The task force will be discussing their findings at the ABA annual meeting in San Francisco next week, and I’ll be there. I’m going on vacation next week (peace out, bitches), but next weekend I’m heading out to San Francisco to the ABA meeting to talk about Twitter and social media.

After my panel, again, assuming that this isn’t a giant set up by the ABA to murder me (wait who changed the music in here?), I can attend the open meeting on this report.

It’ll probably be a good session. I just doubt that it will lead to any substantive change.

Law school financing system in need of ‘serious re-engineering,’ task force says [ABA Journal]
Working Paper: ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education [American Bar Association]

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