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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Passing the batons: Reform and Reckoning in 2024 Legal Education

To say we are experiencing "a moment" risks cliche.  But as to the potential for reform in the legal education space, there may in fact be a moment, for two colliding reasons:  First, the problems that have long plagued legal education are not fundamentally abating, and, indeed, some are worsening.  The annus horribilis (plus) of Covid may have masked persistent problems that had little to do with the pandemic as such.  Now a couple years past the worst of that crisis, we might return to what we saw simmering and, in some ways, boiling over.  The American model and practice of legal education disserves renewed scrutiny.  Problems need to be solved for the betterment of our enterprise, of our profession.  Second, it just so happens that there is a very large turnover in leadership at the organizations that have long been the primary regulators and engines of influence.  To name names, Bill Adams will step down as ABA Legal Ed Section managing director at the end of this academic year, and will be replaced by Dean Jennifer Rosato Perea.  Kellye Testy will leave LSAC to become the next executive director of the AALS.  Kellye will be replaced, although I have no idea at all about the identity of her replacement.  One other interesting fact along these same lines:  The incoming chair of the ABA Legal Ed council is a well-known maverick and fearless innovator, Bridget McCormack, the former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.  And so we are at one of those rare moments where new leadership might steer this big, bulky legal ed ship in a new direction.

I intend this as not merely a gesture of hope, but one of urgency and imperative.  Among the issues that call for close attention and action from these able new leaders:

1) Resolving an issue that is currently before the ABA Section council and has been a hornet's nest for the past several years:  What can law schools do by way of admissions testing?  In 2021, the ABA gave its stamp of approval for the use of the GRE as a valid & reliable admissions test.  Before and after that, the Section twice proposed the removal of Standard 503's requirement of a test, but was met by fierce resistance within the ABA, stoked by LSAC naturally, and backed away.  And this month the council considers whether to approve the use of a novel new initiative -- called JD-Next (on whose academic  advisory board I sit as a volunteer) -- as a possible supplement or replacement for the two tests, the LSAT and GRE, which have previously been approved.  JD-Next has provisional approval under a variance; the question is whether law schools will be able to use it at their discretion going forward. (I am likely to post separately about JD-Next, and so I won't get into the arguments' weeds now).  The matter of admissions testing, and holistic admissions in general, has an urgency, of course, as a result of the Supreme Court's recent affirmative actions decisions, not to mention the continuing struggle to land on systems that reveal student ability that will enable them to succeed in law school;

2) Confronting the issue of cost and student debt.  These problems have not gone away; rather, they seem to be worsening.  Tuition rates continue to climb; university bailouts that might have cushioned somewhat the impact on schools looking to furnish adequate financial aid have basically ended; and the post-Covid legal job market (even including Biglaw) struggles and strains to furnish positions and remuneration sufficient to keep most graduates from leaving law school with crushing debt.  This is, not to be glib about it, a collective action problem.  Law schools will likely fix this in their own backyards only when the market pushes them to do so.  That said, the relevant legal regulatory/influence organizations can implement policies, and decline to implement others, that alleviate some of the cost drivers.  In short, they can help constructively to address these economic problems, even if they cannot (and will not) solve them for the schools themselves;

3) Related to the economics of legal education, but presenting itself as a more complicated "wicked problem," we have a serious access to justice problem in the U.S.  The vast majority of ordinary citizens cannot afford a lawyer; and so they are overmatched in matters close to the bone of their lives, including consumer debt, housing, and family law.  As a nation, we may be "overlawyered," but yet the A2J problem persists.  We must think creatively about structures and practices in legal education worsen this problem; and we should likewise think about how best to inculcate in our students lessons and strategies that will equip them to address the A2J crisis after graduation (even if for some, they will tackle these issues indirectly).  Happily, the new leadership of these legal organizations are all individuals who have made demonstrable contributions to these issues in their careers.  And so there is a basis to be hopeful that they will see this as within the scope of their agenda and objectives;

4) In an ambient sense, we should also see the reckoning in legal education as about our commitment to innovation -- in our educational structures, our pedagogy, how we configure our worklife as teachers, scholars, and administrators -- and our taste for creative problem-solving.  While these are individual choices (as professors) and institutional choices (as law schools), they can be mobilized and incentivized in the right general direction by leadership in legal organizations such as the ABA (both parts, the Section and the "big'" ABA), AALS,  LSAC, AccessLex, NCBE (and other orgs).  Will this transition in leadership bring a temperament for innovation, for bold ideas, for public-regarding, rather than private-interested reform?  Will the ghost of Daniel Burnham influence these leaders?  A commenter on a twitter/X post this morning (Patrick Lamb of ElevateLaw) wryly commented "the guild standing strong against innovation is so certain Vegas bookmakers won't take bets on it."  Nicely said, but I hope he's wrong.  

These leaders can show that they understand the reckoning we are witnessing and the reform that is necessary by coming strong and hard out of the box.  Let's look at what they do, not just what they say, and work with them to improve our collective legal ed welfare.



Posted by Dan Rodriguez on February 17, 2024 at 12:01 PM in Daniel Rodriguez, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


useful article thank you

Posted by: gk questions | Apr 13, 2024 1:39:58 AM

Passing the batons: Reform and Reckoning in 2024 Legal Education is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of legal education. With thought-provoking insights and a clear roadmap for reform, this book tackles the pressing issues facing law schools and offers a fresh perspective on how to navigate the ever-changing legal landscape. Whether you are a student, professor, or legal professional, this book is a valuable resource for understanding the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the legal world.

Posted by: gk | Apr 13, 2024 1:39:16 AM

The highlighted concern is where students are being pressured to pursue certain diploma and courses for jobs that may not necessarily guarantee a bright future, especially considering the current instability in the job market. This pressure is compounded by rising education costs, making it even more challenging for students to access the education they need to get employment.

It's important for system and policymakers to address these issues and ensure that students have access to a variety of paths that lead to meaningful and sustainable careers. This might involve reevaluating the emphasis placed on certain diplomas and courses, providing more support for alternative paths such as vocational training or apprenticeships, and addressing the underlying factors contributing to the instability in the job market.

Additionally, there should be efforts to make education more affordable and accessible to all, regardless of socioeconomic background, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to pursue their desired career paths without being burdened by overwhelming debt.


Posted by: Alice kemp | Apr 11, 2024 2:37:35 PM

Very late in returning to the thread, so I understand if this does not get published, but a few brief points to "much has changed."

Let me harken back to Prof Rodriguez's observation: "Confronting the issue of cost and student debt. These problems have not gone away; rather, they seem to be worsening." From where I stand, law school financing / student loan debt is 'acceptable' today because of two things: federal student loans can finance 100% of the cost of attendance, and income-based repayment plans at this point basically exist to artificially reduce the default rate to 0.00%. Well, the political party that recently took student loan forgiveness to SCOTUS and is currently suing the Biden admin over the new SAVE program also wants to eliminate GradPLUS Loans and greatly harm the viability of income-based repayment plans. Don't take my word for it; Virginia Foxx has introduced almost a half dozen bills over the last several years that do exactly that.

The likely outcome of the GOP capturing either Congress or the Presidency this fall will be the end of GradPLUS loans (and the reduction of federal student loans for grad students to somewhere around $25,000 a year), Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and the actual loan forgiveness event on the other income-based repayment plans. This would throw every law school and every non-Biglaw-bound law graduate into existential crisis. As I noted in my last comment, the Wall Street Journal's analysis of College Scorecard data a few years back found that only 1 in 3 recent law grads were actually paying down their debt. It can safely be presumed that the rest were in income-based repayment plans that put them in negative amortization.

Given the nondischargwability and securitization of private student loans (along with their telltale lobbying to overturn GradPLUS!) it's quite likely the private lenders will lend to most, if not all, law students. Well, that and the fact that the accredited law schools jointly control a private student lender as a membership organization... But it would leave said future law students looking at mandatory student loan payments more akin to mortgage payments - and we all know most entry-level lawyering jobs are not up to the task of carrying those burdens.

I agree that there is more disclosure and information available to prospective law students today than ever before - and that's great! But let's look at what the ABA reports do not require: salary outcomes, default rate, and more importantly repayment rate, i.e. what % of their grads are working down their loan principal. Yes, the Department of Education's College Scorecard offers this, sort of, but it's not a very user friendly website, several standalone law schools do not turn up in search results, and the data sets are, shall we say, unwieldy. I believe the current median salary information is a mishmash of the past four years of graduates taken 1 through 4 years after graduation. What is the utility of that, really?

". Northeastern, which a prior commenter appears to have attended, has a 1.1:1 ratio of median debt level:median income level."

I see where that information comes from. However, per their Form 509 disclosure Northeastern's median tuition discount is $32,000 out of a total cost of attendance of nearly $90,000 (and only that small because their living budget is hysterically low; I think they expect people to commute in from rural Maine or something), and a College Scorecard four-year median salary of $84,159. So that's roughly $180k in student loan debt (let's not forget the three years of 8.05% interest by the time they graduate) against a $84k salary some years later. That is decidedly not a 1.1:1 debt to income ratio. And again, even if it was a 1.1:1 ratio, my overarching point is if PSLF and GradPLUS go away, no Northeastern grad will be able to make their student loan payments out of their public interest or small law firm jobs, which is where the majority of them end up. The debt to income ratios are only not a problem because there is, at the moment, no consequences for inability to repay the debt - and a party that stands a real chance of winning this fall is all but salivating at punishing those sorts of grads.

*One of Rep. Foxx's plans would reduce graduate federal student loans to $25,000 a year, the cost of attendance at Columbia Law is just shy of $120,000 a year (having increased $20,000 in about the past five years), and per their most recent Form 509 38% of their students pay sticker, so $100k/year in private student loans would not be an unheard of ask.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 10, 2024 6:40:41 PM

The notion that students are being forced to take on tons of debt that the jobs they (won't) land won't allow them to repay is dated. Not only is the employment market far stronger than it was in 2012 or so, when that criticism became widespread, but costs have come down in real terms.

Another major change is transparency. Here is a blog post that analyzes publicly available data on student debt and graduate earnings. I doubt prospective law students have ever had so much information. https://excessofdemocracy.com/blog/2023/5/which-law-schools-have-the-best-and-worst-debt-to-income-ratios-among-recent-law-school-graduates-2023-update

The table on that post reveals many public schools that deliver excellent value for money. Elite schools often do too, which isn't much consolation given their selectivity, but might be cause for self-reflection among the profs who teach in them and repeat uncritically the tropes about the (sticker) price of legal education.

The figures for many non-elite private schools are surprisingly favorable. Northeastern, which a prior commenter appears to have attended, has a 1.1:1 ratio of median debt level:median income level. Whether that's a good deal depends a lot on subjective factors, but it's not some kind of crisis.

Perhaps the true complaint is that these costs or the debt required to pay them vastly exceed what a career in the lowest-paid forms of public service can repay. There, the various federal programs, which are quite generous, make those careers probably as accessible as they have ever been.

Posted by: much has changed | Feb 27, 2024 2:22:17 PM

To briefly add my two cents to law school debt / repayment / wages, let me say this:

1) interest rates on federal student loans are >7% for Stafford and >8% for GradPLUS, and none of them are subsidized while students are in law school anymore.

2) "Leading" law schools are now all comfortably over $100,000/year in total cost of attendance, with some cresting $120k/year. Combined with #1, students are looking at a standard repayment north of $4,000/month after taxes, I believe. Around here in Boston, I don't think ANY of the law schools charge much under $90k/year.

3) Adjusted for inflation today's highest starting Biglaw salaries do not meet the real dollar value of the $160k level set in 2007 or the $125k level set in 1999, and really isn't all that much higher than the $65k/year Cravath paid in 1986. Cynics are free to check my math at their nearest inflation calculator.

4) The most recent analysis I have seen of law school graduate loan repayment was in the WSJ in 2021, using then-new College Scorecard data (which is sourced right from federal student loan debtors' tax returns). As I recall, the WSJ concluded that only about 1 in 3 law school graduates had paid down even a dime of loan principal within two years of graduation. That's another way of saying almost everyone survives thanks to the graces of income-based repayment plans.

5) A certain political party has introduced about a half dozen HEA reauthorization attempts over the last eight years, all of which would eliminate PSLF, the forgiveness event of other IBR plans, and repeal GradPLUS loans, putting law schools right back in the mid-2000s position of expecting students to borrow heavily from private student lenders (who, I might add, are heavily lobbying for these HEA reauthorizations). Lest anyone forget, by 2005-06 many law schools had cost of attendance budgets 2.5x to almost 4x the size of the then-existing federal student lending ceiling of $20k or so.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 26, 2024 6:55:09 AM

I have not commented on law school issues in at least five years but I came across this post as it is linked to in other blogs I still read and it is so intriguing that I feel compelled to probe it further. What is intriguing is that this is a T14 law prof commenting on structural problems in the legal academy that mostly impact the lower ranks and with what appears to be some sort of genuine, if naive, goal of improving the role law school plays in society.

What makes the post naive is that for schools outside of the Top 30 or so (and maybe including some within it) the dominant if not exclusive concern in the present and foreseeable future is their own economic survival. A JD applicant pool that has dramatically decreased in numbers, but has vastly increased in sophistication and information, is presently routing the schools in the middle of the pack. With the discounts being applied, real tuition is down all over the place. I strongly believe that the predominant question on most law school administrators minds is how to wrestle back some market control over this group. With that in mind, let's take a look at the reforms Rodriguez presents:

1. JD Next. On the surface, this is the right type of move to cut into the buyer's power. The absurdity of modern admissions is that candidates with a 162/3.8 are often paying half the price of a candidate that is 156/3.6 at the same school even though these candidates fall generally in the same bucket (capable but outside elite and semi-elite schools). JD Next advertises itself as not producing much racial gap, which either means that the underlying statistics are based on a unique set of test takers so far or it is a test designed more for basic competency rather than to separate high end performers. My guess is that it is some of both. A test that obfuscates medium high achievement from medium achievement is exactly what mid-level law schools need right now. However, I don't see the applicants going for this. None of the schools that send over 33% of their class to Biglaw (e.g. T30) will ever rely in any substantial part on a test that does not reliably identify uniquely high performers (e.g. 165+ lsat as a minimum). The law firms they feed to require this ability. I worked at a AMLAW 50 firm in the early 2010's and I estimate three quarters of the associate class does nothing that is even taught in law school. For example I was asked to write a report on a major mortgage lender's tendency to hold good loans while selling bad ones. There was an associate in the litigation department that had not read a case in 2 years. On the corporate side, nothing has anything to do with what is taught in first year law school or tested on the bar exam. In short, top schools need to send geniuses and near geniuses to megalith law firms which requires a higher end cognitive measure. I doubt the schools can even admit minority candidates with JD next because they will never admit white and asian students en masse without the LSAT/GRE and this type of obviously discrepancy in admissions standards will likely run afoul of recent SCOTUS precedent. The problem for mid-level schools is that most candidates aspire to a T30 school of some sort early in the process, to which the gateway will always be the LSAT or GRE. Having taken one admission test, it is unlikely they will opt for a second. Also, law schools have to report LSAT scores where they exist even for students that ultimately apply with JD Next. This means that the school will not even have the benefit of obfuscating the LSAT range when it accepts the JD Next candidate. JD Next maybe have more traction at the bottom tier, but those schools are virtually open admission at this point anyway. They may not want a test that predicts bar passage better because it may actually limit their applicant pool as financially they rely on all sorts of students that fail out before graduation or go on to fail the bar.

2) Issues of Student Cost and Debt. As I said, the students are winning the battle here. Real average tuition at many half-decent law schools after median discount (which goes to like 92% of the student body) seems to be in the $20-25K range. That's a preschool bill. Its also about half of ordinary private high school or private undergraduate tuition. For anyone who goes on to obtain a job as a lawyer, it is a fair bargain. There are also all sorts of opportunities for moonshots. It's completely plausible for a student in the 3.8/165 range to go to state undergrade and state law school on a heavy if not full scholarship, graduate with no debt and still be among the 10% to get a BIGLAW job starting at $240k. Not bad. The least sophisticated students take it on the chin, which eventually falls to the taxpayer. I anticipate this non-sense will run out at some point in the next 10 years and access to those $300k in loans will get cut off. Anyway, the short and the short is that the schools are charging every red penny they can get away with. If they manage to cut costs on the operation side, they will use the savings to reduce the operational deficit, not pass that savings along further to the consumer.

3. Access to Justice Problem. I admire you for bringing it up. It is a huge problem. Of course there is nothing law schools can do to put more money in the pockets of indigent legal service seekers. Actually, the major inefficiency is that the public is underwriting through the student loan system the education of a bunch of JD candidates that will never practice law and those funds are being passed through to administrators and professors that write esoteric scholarship that increasingly has nothing to do with practical law and even if it did most people have no money for a lawyer to implement it. If all of those public resources were sent instead to Legal Aid and the Public Defender System, etc. (full employment for the top 50-70 law schools would amply supply the lawyers) it would go a long way in curing the access to justice problem at no real cost to society. Since I don't anticipate any law schools will support a reform that causes their own demise, I don't see this getting much traction in the academy.

4. Curriculum Reform. I don't think students care terribly much about curriculum, they care where they wind up when law school is over. But I agree that some updating is probably in order.

Posted by: Anon Lawyer | Feb 22, 2024 1:15:58 PM

I generally don't ever respond to anonymous; and I am reluctant to respond critically to someone who begins their post with such kind words :) However, let me just say quickly, because there is much daylight here:

1) Missed the point re tests. The ABA has an important issue presently before them about a method of evaluation that has been found to be valid & reliable and has, albeit upon the limited data, much less racial effects. You and other colleagues may not care about that, but 'tis rather important, as it goes to the heart of how we assemble our law school student body;

2) Debt load has not gone down appreciably, and the federal LRAP programs are quite restrictive, as I will assume you and others know. As to whether public schools are a great bargain, I urge folks who don't live and breath this stuff to simply look the facts up. Public law school tuition has increased at a higher rate than private law schools;

3) This is not a serious engagement with the point re A2J. No serious person thinks that the panacea is huge influx of public money (not that this would happen in any event). Clinics can help; and Prof. Banzhaf has a comment on this thread that shows one creative way. But it is really the engagement of law schools and legal reg orgs with the brute fact that it will take significant changes to UPL rules and other barriers to entry of non-JD legal professionals to address A2J;

4) You don't like "ambient?" Fair enough. But that there would be myriad perspectives on what counts as innovation is, to me, a good reason for fostering greater dialogue on these issues, rather than just surrendering to the status quo.

As close as I am to retirement suggests that I have much less of a personal stake in large-scale reform of legal ed than many others. Nonetheless, I regard this as an obligation to a profession that has treated me so well and which I continue to value greatly, even as a persistent critic!

Posted by: Daniel Rodriguez | Feb 19, 2024 6:38:06 PM

I have great respect for Dan, but don't think any of the issues he identifies rise to the level of a serious problem, let alone "a moment."

1) I have no opinion on how the various tests compare (and doubt many law profs do), but standardized tests, even flawed ones, are a fairer assessment than almost any alternative measure--especially when combined with GPA, essays, recommendations, etc. What is the problem? Schools will be newly constrained by the SFFA decision, and people are going to have different opinions on that, but one could say the same for many other facts of our lives and jobs right now.

2) Debt levels at many schools are stable or flat in real terms. The basic bargain is the same as it ever was: there is usually some tradeoff in price vs. prestige, with many public schools offering tremendous value. In fact, things have gotten better as federal debt forgiveness and repayment programs have given access to those benefits - previously confined to grads of elite schools - to everyone.

3) Improving access to justice would require a serious commitment to public provision of legal services - Medicaid for lawyers or something. Law schools can run clinics, sure, just as medical schools do. Neither can gin up funding for essential services out of thin air.

4) The wide variety of things flagged under this item under the rubric of "ambient" issues shows the impossibility of "solving" or reaching consensus on them. I don't think we can even reach consensus on what these "innovation" issues are. It'll just the same ongoing debates that have always been.

Posted by: anon prof | Feb 19, 2024 6:15:18 PM

Thanks, Dan, for your leadership in highlighting the not just continuing but increasing salience of these questions. I personally think a number of economic birds are finally coming home to roost, and their presence may require redesigning the coop. And I think you're right that the perceptions of the existence and nature of those problems will be economically driven.

With all due respect to Grumpy, whose concerns are real and nontrivial, I think your (Dan's) concerns are logically and practically anterior to Grumpy's. Generations and their particular misconceptions come and go; there always have been and always will be shared flaws among the demographic attending law school and practicing law at any particular time. But as long as there is some need for lawyers, the institutions that manufacture them require self-examination and, where that fails (as it might be fair to say it has over the last ten to twenty years, and perhaps longer), correction from markets or government.


Posted by: Bernie Burk | Feb 19, 2024 2:45:09 PM

Perhaps the third year of Law School could become a hands on experience, where students, under the guidance of their Law Professors , can spend their time working on cases in the local community in an effort not only to help their students become familiar with the application of Law, but also as a means to help those in the community who might not have adequate access to Justice.

As to The Rule Of Law, Grounded In The Spirit Of The Law, it is important to note, that when we deny the fact that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, Is The Author Of Love, Of Life, And Of Marriage, and thus The Author of our inherent unalienable Rights, beginning with our inherent unalienable Right to Life, the securing and protection upon which our unalienable Right to Liberty and The Pursuit Of Happiness depends, and render onto Caesar or yourself what Has Always And Will
Always Belong to God , anything can become permissible, including the destruction of a beloved innocent son or daughter, residing in their mother’s womb.

Woe to us! Justice Requires The Truth Of Love.

Posted by: ND | Feb 19, 2024 11:53:56 AM

Appreciate the good comments here. The trouble with specifying some examples, is that many folks (also on LinkedIn) want to say that there are other, more urgent and more sensible, innovative strategies and issues in legal education than the ones mentioned. Maybe so. My point is not to make a template for the TOP issues, but just to say that, whatever your preferred innovations, it will be important for these leadership organizations to be constructive forces for change, not obstacles for reform.

Posted by: Daniel Rodriguez | Feb 19, 2024 10:19:59 AM

I would be content for these organizations to start by just justifying their existence, and to ensure us that they don't make the problems we face worse.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Feb 18, 2024 9:41:26 PM

I have the highest respect for Dan as an educator, scholar, and decent human being. But with all due respect, the challenges he identifies are yesterday’s challenges. My list would include the following:

1. What will it mean to be a lawyer in a society in which half the population (and growing) no longer retains a commitment to the rule of law? What can possibly be the role of lawyers in such a society? How can one “practice law” in any way that resembles the form in which members of the academy were trained? What value, therefore, can we provide students? What value, indeed, can a law degree possess in such a society?

2. What will count as professional standards, and acceptably professional behavior, in a society in which people are essentially raised by the internet? An education is the application of training to an input population that bears certain characteristics. The input population is now dramatically different. A judge I know, who worked his ass off to get where he is, recently complained to me that the young lawyers who appear before him are awful, and that the students we send to his court to work there are lazy and entitled. I see myself that unless I provide my students with each and every tiny little thing they need, preferably delivered to the phone clutched constantly in their hands, accompanied by a notifying buzz, they become completely befuddled. Many seem to lack the most basic resources to solve the simplest of problems. Their principal tactic in those circumstances seems to be a tantrum, often pitched online, in social media.

I would love to hear what new leadership thinks about these issues, and many other related ones.

Posted by: Grumpy | Feb 18, 2024 5:54:43 PM

Yes, “Related to the economics of legal education, but presenting itself as a more complicated problem, we have a serious ACCESS TO JUSTICE PROBLEM in the U.S.”

But the conventional approach of trying to address this problem - by encouraging a larger percentage of law graduates to represent individuals in groups which are typically under represented (e.g. the poor) - is unlikely to be effective for at least two reasons.

First, many and probably most new law school graduates, even if they themselves come from under represented groups, want to be able to earn significant amounts of money; not only to pay off ever-growing student loans, but also to enjoy a comfortable standard of living.

Second, there simply are not enough lawyers - now already in practice or yet to graduate from law school - to begin representing all of the many different people in different groups who so urgently need it.

One solution - hardly innovative since I’ve been doing it for more than 40 years - is to train law students in how to represent important interests which may be shared by many people in groups with are under represented, rather than trying to represent the much larger body of individuals in need. SEE, E.G.:
Try Clinical Courses Without Clients

The even proliferating number of clinics in law schools don’t really do this since they largely have students assisting individuals in need (e.g., the poor, deaf, immigrants, etc) rather than representing the important legal interests most in the group share collectively.

Such clinics also are also limited in the number of law students who can be enrolled by the need for the law school to hire enough attorneys to provide close (sometimes almost 1-to-1) supervision because the students (not yet admitted to practice law) represent actual individual clients.

So that’s why I have trained law students - not in a clinic but as part of a course - to approach problems systemically, rather than by representing individuals. Here’s just one example.

Many law schools have domestic violence clinics where students, under close faculty supervision, represent individuals (usually women) who are victims of domestic violence by helping them to secure restraining orders and other protections. This is obviously very useful to the few individuals who can be represented, but seemingly does little to reduce the incidence of domestic violence year after year after year.

My law students tackled the generic problem of domestic violence, and triggered a solution which actually reduced the incidence of domestic violence for the future. SEE, E.G.:
Domestic Violence: The District of Columbia’s New Mandatory Arrest Law

“Until 1987 the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department had no specific internal policy for handling domestic violence cases. What limited training the officers received taught them that domestic violence should be mediated and arrest avoided.
In 1986 a group of George Washington University law students,' with the assistance of the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV), petitioned the police department to develop guidelines recommending arrest rather than mediation as the preferred response to domestic violence.
As a result of the petition and growing community pressure, in June 1987 the Metropolitan Police Department adopted a "pro-arrest" domestic violence policy through promulgation of General Order 701.5, which stressed that arrest was the appropriate police response to domestic violence, but fell short of requiring it.
Order 701.5 provides that" [i]n cases where probable cause exists to believe a criminal offense has occurred, an immediate arrest should be made whenever possible."

So, as a part of long overdue reform of legal education generally, and reform of experiential legal education more specifically, I encourage law teaching colleagues to incorporate, in their own courses, the opportunity for their students to bring legal actions in their own names (thereby eliminating the need for very close supervision) to address both problems shared by members of minority groups (e.g., Blacks, Hispanics, LGBTQ, etc), but also those shared by groups which constitute a majority (e.g. women, nonsmokers, pollution, etc.)

Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | Feb 18, 2024 9:46:43 AM

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