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Monday, February 11, 2013

Law - "A Call for Drastic Changes in Educating New Lawyers"

From the NY Times, a long story by Ethan Bronner about an ABA task force chaired by Randall T. Shepard. Some quotes:

DALLAS — Faced with profound and seemingly irreversible shifts, the legal profession is contemplating radical changes to its educational system, including cutting the curriculum, requiring far more on-the-ground training and licensing technicians who are not full lawyers.

The proposals are a result of numerous factors, including a sharp drop in law school applications, the outsourcing of research over the Internet, a glut of underemployed and indebted law school graduates and a high percentage of the legal needs of Americans going unmet. * * *

While a few schools are freezing tuition and others are increasing hands-on learning, critics are increasingly saying that the legal academy cannot solve its own problems, partly because of the vested interests of tenured professors tied to an antiquated system. Effective solutions, they insist, will have to be imposed from the outside.

Since law schools are regulated by state courts, that means convincing top state judges of the necessity of major change. * * *

The task force was set up last summer and was given 24 months to issue its recommendations. But its chairman, Randall T. Shepard, a former chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, said a sense of crisis was driving the group to do so this fall. * * *

As the meeting ended, one task force member, Michael P. Downey of St. Louis, summed it up. “The house is on fire,” he said. “We don’t want a report that sits on a shelf.”

The article also points out that the State of Washington is not waiting:
It has established a board to create a program for limited-license legal technicians, the first in the country. Within a year, the board is expected to lay out the educational and professional framework for the technicians. They will have more training and responsibility than paralegals but will not appear in court or negotiate on their clients’ behalf.

“The consuming public cannot afford lawyers, and the profession needs to figure that out and own it,” Ms. Littlewood said. “Our hope is to provide more access. The second point is that you have these folks out there doing unauthorized practice, which is harming the public. The hope is to bring them under the tent.”

Here is a related quote from the SBM Blog (quoting this post from Slaw, Canada's online legal magazine):
If lawyers want to improve their image, we can start by improving reality. Make the justice system swifter, more transparent and more even-handed. Find ways to make the price of lawyers' talents and efforts affordable to more than 20% of the population. Push harder for principled conduct rules and fewer obstructive tactics in litigation. And stop trying to put out of business lower-cost competitors who might be able to serve the very people who think so poorly of us in the first place. Think more and do more about the reality of clients than about the image of lawyers.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 11, 2013 02:20 PM
Posted to General Law Related