Plenary: Significant Developments Affecting the Regulation of Lawyers

by Paul Maharg on 20/04/2012

Important plenary, with Catherine Carpenter, Gerald VandeWalle and Hulett (Bucky) Askew.

First up, Catherine Carpenter.  Standards Review Committee’s Comprehensive Review  has been ongoing for over three years now.  She started with learning outcomes — something new to American law schools, she said.  The focus on outputs, not inputs, was essential.  And the Bar Exam as the currently sole output measure was insufficient.  What sort of outputs (affected by Carnegie & Best Practices)?  Knowledge & understanding, professional skills, and exercise of professional judgment.

Under new standards, law schools will articulate learning goals, demonstrate the learning goals through the curriculum, and periodically assess how well students are learning knowledge, skills, and professionalism.  Catherine has drawn up A Survey of Law School Curriculum: 2002-2010, available June 2012.  This will provide much in the way of data on the way that law schools have changed over the last decade (esp given Carnegie, Best Practices and other texts and many initiatives).  The proposed Standard 204 wants ‘one or more faculty supervised, rigorous courses totalling at least three semester hours after the first year.  These must integrate doctrine, theory, skills and legal ethics.  … simulation courses, live client clinic, field placements ‘.  Very interesting, and at last the ABA are moving to more experiential learning initiatives.

Re Bar Exam, the proposal is for a Bar Passage Standard, with first time bar passage rate no more than 15 points below ABA pass rate in state or 75% ultimate bar passage rate.  And law schools to collect data on at least 70% of its graduates.

Questions arising from this re the Bar Exam —

  1. should the standard be more rigorous?
  2. there’s a need to balance rigour with access
  3. standard must acknowledge varied bar admissions rates & cut scores
  4. compliance of bar passage standard would not be sufficient alone to meet other standards
  5. data collection of four years informs the discussion

Gerald VandeWalle was next, alerting us to the 20/20 proposals on technology (confidentiality & marketing), outsourcing, uniformity & mobility, inbound foreign lawyers, alternative law practice structures (choice of law & nonlawyer fee sharing), and uniformity/choice of law.

Finally Bucky Askew, witty as ever.  I met him at several of Clark Cunningham’s legal education events in Atlanta.  He started off with facts on ABA approved schools.  How many 201.  In 2001, 183,  Five new in development.  81 public, 120 private, 20 independent, 6 proprietary.  So large increases since 2001.  Is accreditation a major cost driver?  Apparently not.  The growth of career services, scholarship funds, experiential learning initiatives — those were factors.  Most schools still charged under $15,000 per year.

Profile of law students.  156462 students (135,091 in 2001 = 11.6% growth).  73,415 women, 46.9%; 35,859 minorities, 22.9% (19.4* in 2001).  Average tuition: Private: $39,184;  [other data I cdn’t get down…]

On the admission of foreign lawyers, the proposal was to have a new Model Rule: a Masters Programme; but this was not accepted.  The conference wanted foreign law schools to be certified according to minimum criteria.  But Model Rule was adopted in part by New York.

The old 509 Standard.  This Consumer Protection Standard only required law schools to publish ‘placement rates’.  There was widespread concern regarding lack of & inaccurate, employment data. There was proposed a new proces ofr data collection, therefore.  More accurate, timely, complete, and specific data than previously, to be displayed on Section website by School in early summer.  Information?  Part-time/full time, long term, short term, funded by law school.  JD required or preferred, and breakdown of employment categories. This will be done ins tandard format and easily accessible.  It will break down employment categories and private firm sizes, and also displays scholarship retention rates.

Bucky wound up by saying that there were many other initiatives, too numerous to mention in this session, but which were all upon the ABA website, and called for participation in the process.

Excellent session, giving much interesting information about the direction of travel being taken by the ABA.

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