An American Bar Association task force has released a report that includes some smart thinking about how to reform the ailing legal education industry. The suggestions include lowering the number classroom hours required for graduation, allowing students to earn educational credit for paid positions, and dropping tenure requirements for law school accreditation. Most important, however, was the task force’s recommendation that the bar be opened to those who have not completed a full degree:
Law schools should work with licensing authorities and the bar association to help produce graduates who can provide basic legal services that don’t require the expertise of someone with a J.D. degree. They should follow the lead of the State of Washington, which is producing “limited-practice lawyers,” who offer services that are affordable to low-income clients and those living in rural areas or small towns. A few other states are also moving in that direction.
Great idea. These are just recommendations of course, but we seriously hope that at least some schools look seriously at putting some of them into practice. As things stand now, there are too many needless obstacles to pursuing a career in law. Why, for instance, force students to go deep in debt to take three years of coursework when one or two would do (as many, including President Obama, have argued).None of these changes would likely solve the bigger problem of record low application numbers for law schools, but anything that makes pursuing a career in law cheaper and easier might just help—and it would likely benefit the rest of us as well.[Law scales image courtesy of Shutterstock]