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ConstructionThis Is How We Fix Law School And The Legal Profession

There’s been a lot of talk swirling around the past few years about the broken legal education system. If there has been a lack of anything, it’s probably been a productive conversation about what is needed and realistically can happen to alleviate the ills – piles of debt and a tough job market. Regardless of whether the job market continues to improve and schools continue to freeze tuition, this Great Law School Recession of the past five or so years has taught the legal education system at least one thing: it could be better.
Deborah Rhode, an author and professor at Stanford Law School, recently released a book called The Trouble With Lawyers. Just this week, Salon printed an excerpt from it. The excerpt begins by alluding to a New York Times article from 30 years ago that eerily could have very well been published last week. It mentioned the lack of practical training and “inattention to issues of professional responsibility.”
Rhode notes that the current system of law school is beneficial for one large group: the faculty. She points out studies that show high rates of job satisfaction for law school professors—more so than both privately and publicly practicing lawyers.
“A fundamental problem in American legal education is a lack of consensus among faculty that there is a fundamental problem, or one that they have a responsibility to address. Law schools have a long and unbecoming history of resistance to reform. That is likely to change only if external pressure from students, accrediting authorities, donors, and courts demands it,” Rhode wrote.
And so in the excerpt, Rhode proposes fundamental changes to the two broad categories of finances and structure. Along with proposing more robust loan forgiveness programs, and increased disclosure of job placement and salaries, Rhode urges schools to seek ways to diversify their revenue streams and cut costs. Another solution Rhodes mentions is creating more three-plus-three programs in which students earn their undergraduate degrees in three years and then begin law school at the university in which they earned their bachelor’s degree.
Rhodes then proposes some big and perhaps very controversial structural changes. She suggests eliminating the bar exam and challenging the U.S. News ranking system. Rhodes believes eliminating required American Bar Association-accredited legal education could force lower ranked schools into competing more with one another, thereby reducing tuition costs. As for the ranking system, Rhodes believes a more helpful ranking system developed by law schools could even the playing field for law schools which are inherently different.
Source: Salon