If there’s one thing the people in the room at the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education can agree on today, it’s that something has to give. But just what has to give? That still seems to be up for debate. In the opening session, opinions ranged nearly as wide as the topics, which included the deregulation of the profession, the deregulation of law schools, online education, US News, faculty scholarship, student expectations, consumer expectations, access to justice, and curriculum.
One participant half-joked that the Task Force should find a way to put US News out of business, while another said US News grew out of necessity and that if schools didn’t like it they should create something new. Many expressed concern about the limits the ABA places on online education. Others suggested that we start with the current reality of the legal profession—and the burgeoning legal services industry—and work backward to find solutions for legal education. One participant suggested we look at what consumers need and recreate legal services to meet those needs. A couple said we need to be realistic about the type of lawyers most schools are producing—solo and small firm—and retool the law school curriculum to prepare students for a solo/small firm practice. One cautioned that there seemed to be a lot of focus on making things cheaper, but that the solutions might not be cheap.
David Yellen, the Dean of Loyola University School of Law in Chicago and a Task Force member, said he would like to see this group develop answers to:
- What should law schools be allowed to do, that is not already allowed?
- What should law schools be required to do, that is not already required?
- What should law schools be encouraged to do?
The Task Force includes 16 members and today’s meeting includes another 20+ invited guests. The group created by the American Bar Association last summer plans to circulate a draft report in late summer or early fall and a final report in November. This morning, we shared information about the live webcast and today’s schedule.
One of the sessions this afternoon includes a panel of law professors from three of our Consortium schools: Bill Henderson (Indiana University Maurer School of Law), Sophie Sparrow (University of New Hampshire), and Catherine Carpenter (Southwestern Law School). According to the materials, they plan to address delivery and regulation of legal education, including:
- What recommendations should the Task Force make to law schools?
- What recommendations should the Task Force make to the ABA Section of Legal Education?
- What recommendations should the Task Force make to bar admissions officials?
The afternoon session is just getting started. Tune in if you can.