"Broader Delivery of Law Related Services:
This should include licensing persons other than holders of a J.D. to deliver limited legal services, and authorizing bar admission for people whose preparation may be other than the traditional four years of college plus three years of classroom based law school education." While the law schools are still pumping out almost twice as many graduates as there are jobs available, this proposal would cannibalize potential job opportunities. In the excellent book, Con Law, my fellow blog mate Charles Cooper writes about new grads who are forced to become solos chasing an ever more despicable and low grade clientele. Introducing more competition into the current climate works directly against law grads' interests. Good job, ABA.
"[Online] criticism is diminishing public confidence in law schools and legal education and it adversely affects attitudes of prospective law students." Boo hoo. Law schools are stealing billions of dollars a year and enriching law school administrators and professors. Any criticism is warranted and richly deserved.
"What the ABA Standards [for Approval of Law Schools] do encourage is a continued increase in the quality of the J.D. educational program. The pursuit of quality by law schools has unquestionably led to a strong system for training lawyers, and the ABA Standards have played a key role. But “quality of legal education” is an abstract notion as to which there is no objective metric for progress or achievement." Let me suggest a metric: student employment in a job requiring a bar license within a reasonable time after graduation. I know it's crazy, but let's give it a shot.
"In some rural areas, for example, there are few lawyers and it is difficult for communities to encourage new ones to set up practice, either because of low prospective return on investment or lack of interest in small town or rural life." The "all the jobs are in rural Nebraska" argument is a red herring. There is a dearth of lawyers in these communities because there just isn't all that much work in most of these places to allow a lawyer to service her debt and live the American Dream. I live in a state with a large rural population. Many areas have one attorney for a three or four county area, because the low population, lack of disposable income and low demand will simply not support more than that.
"There is wide disagreement about the purpose of law schools. For example, a commonly stated purpose of law schools is to train lawyers, but there is no consensus about what this means." Tamanaha and others have advocated a bifurcated approach to legal education. Certain schools (probably the elite ones like Harvard) can remain dedicated to developing leaders and teaching students how to "think like lawyers". All the others can teach students how to do what most attorneys do: draft wills and contracts, file a divorce, and how to litigate a case. This approach would help settle this "disagreement". The Report explores this idea more in depth on P. 22-23.
"To begin, there is relatively little scholarship funding or discounting provided to students on the basis of financial need. Rather, the widespread practice is for a school to announce nominal tuition rates and then use extensive discounting to build class profiles it finds desirable. In particular, schools pursue students with high LSAT scores and high GPA’s. Students who do not
contribute positively to the desired class profile receive little if any benefit from discounting and must rely extensively on borrowing to finance their education."Chasing prestige is a problem endemic to the legal profession. The legal profession's aristocratic ambitions need to be disabused before we can make law a truly meritocratic enterprise.
"Law schools have a societal role: to prepare individuals to provide law related services." Don't tell this to law profs. The majority of them are so out of touch that they think drivel like Nancy Leong's law and pop culture study is a worthwhile pursuit.
"But for law schools that choose to pursue other models, faculty culture and faculty role may have to change to support them. These changes may relate to: accountability for outcomes; scope of decision-making authority; responsibilities for teaching, internal service, external service, and scholarly work; career expectations; modes of compensation; interdependence; scope of the category “faculty” and internal classifications within that category; and a host of other factors." The majority of the law professorate will fight this type of change tooth and nail. After all, why would they want to give up the most highly paid part time job in America and possibly the world?
The suggestions in this report have some merit, which is why they will almost certainly be ignored by all the major stakeholders involved. Until law schools are subjected to some sort of system where employment outcomes are tied to the amount of student loans available to its students. Without that type of accountability, law schools will continue to abdicate their duty to actually teach students how to practice law in favor of producing ever more esoteric and useless "legal scholarship".