Last week, the good people at American Bar Association Task Force on the Future of Legal Education released a DRAFT report. This usually means that the report will disappear from the ABA website once people start criticizing it. This also means that the ABA will take the typical “all talk, no action” stance in the hopes that the report will appease the masses temporarily while hoping the economy picks up and we scambloggers go away.
After pages and pages of pointless pontification, they turn to who should be blamed for the current clusterfuck:
Some of the criticism takes the form of moralizing and blaming current problems on various actors in the legal education community. Deans are blamed for raising law school tuition or failing to stand up to certain constituencies. Faculty are blamed for supposedly self-seeking behavior and the pursuit of questionable goals for the law school. Universities are blamed for supposedly pressuring law schools to become profit centers. The legal profession is blamed for insufficiently supporting law schools and recent graduates, and steadily shifting educational responsibilities and costs to law schools.
Moralizing and blaming are not productive. What is needed instead is a dispassionate and pragmatic examination of the current situation that begins with a presumption of good faith on the part of all participants. This will enable those in the legal education system to collaboratively articulate credible goals and strategies, identify reasonably achievable short-term actions, and move legal education along a path toward continuing improvement and value for all participants.
After more ruminating and finger-pointing, the task force listed actors that can “productively participate in improving the system” and giving specific recommendations for each.
- Law schools
- Deliverers of law-related education other than law schools
- Law faculties
- Universities and other institutions of higher education
- American Bar Association
- American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
- Regional and other higher education accrediting bodies
- State Supreme Courts
- State and local bar associations
- Bar admission authorities
- Federal government
- State governments
- Law firms and law offices
- Pre-law advisors
With so many actors, each having its own agenda and financial interests, conflicts will be inevitable. The federal and state government will want lawyers that will serve the
poor or cheap underserved members of society. The feds also want to make sure that all of their indebted slaves pay back their 7.9% interest GRAD PLUS loans. The ABA ostensibly wants greater access to justice. But law schools and their faculty want to maintain their prestige and their tenure salaries that they feel they are entitled to. Law firms want to remain profitable – one way or another.
Reform will create casualties – the question is who will be the first to die? Law schools will have to close. Biglaw will lose profits to domestic and overseas doc review firms. Small firms and solo practitioners will lose more of their clients to Legalzoom, document preparers like We the People and a new concept called the legal practitioner. Judges’ dockets will be clogged with pro se and frivolous cases. If the ABA lets the law school
scam crisis continue, it will eventually lose credibility and the Department of Education will designate another entity to accrediate law schools.
So with everyone bitching and moaning, will the ABA Task Force actually do something other than making recommendations? I doubt it. Look at the committee members – they are judges, older practitioners and law professors for the most part. Three constituencies who generally don’t give a shit about young lawyers’ mountainous student loan debt and their lack of viable employment opportunities.
If the ABA cannot (or doesn’t want to) do anything, who can affect change? For the next few posts, I will look at each of the actors mentioned in the task force report and determine what each of them can do to fix this mess.