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An American Bar Association task force is promoting extensive changes in legal education in order to fight the increase in student debt and declining applications to law schools. Some of the major changes that this task force is enforcing include the dismissal of certain law school approval standards like, opening the bar to people who may not have completed all four years of college and three years of law school. The ABA task force is also recommending more every day and hands-on skill training in law school teaching programs.
The ABA task force is not only calling on legal education for change, but also on state bar associations, courts, and bar acceptance authorities to originate new and improved foundations for the licensing of limited legal service providers.
The report that the task force issued last Friday does not specifically mention the President’s suggestion that law schools could limit classes to two years and require third-year students to spend their school year practicing in a law firm. However, the task force’s report did endorse the termination of the rule that law students are required to have 45,000 minutes in a classroom in order to graduate.
The main purpose of this report is to spotlight the critical requirement for change in our nation’s legal education. The report states that “the system faces considerable pressure because of the price many students pay, the large amounts of student debt, consecutive years of sharply falling applications, and dramatic changes, possibly structural, in the jobs available to law graduates.” It titles this dilemma of a large number of recent graduates who never attain the types of jobs they anticipated “particularly compelling.”
Even though this report is still in the draft stage, it is intended to be distributed for observation and then considered at the bar associations 2014 meeting. If the report is implemented at this meeting it will be greatly influential on law schools and state bar associations, but not binding.
The segments of this report that are viewed as the most controversial are the ones dealing with the qualification standards of the legal education system and how it is financed. It openly critiques how the majority of law schools provide little to no aid to the most disadvantaged students while preserving most of their scholarships for the students with the best credentials in an attempt to increase the school’s ranking.
The general idea of this report is believed to be the freeing of law schools to get away from the one-size-fits-all model that they currently are in. It calls for more experimentation and differentiation by law schools, citing the wide variety of colleges in the U.S. Lastly, the report suggests the establishment of national standards for admission to the bar.