The Lawyer's Emissary: An Interview With Loyola’s David Yellen

Loyola Law is well-known for public service. In Florida, legislators are considering reducing loans for students who work in the public sector. And a recent paper suggested tuition forgiveness for public service. Do you believe such solutions, while noble, are financially feasible?
I’m in favor of any kind of support for people to pursue public service that we can accomplish and afford. Loyola, like many schools, has loan repayment assistance programs to provide modest support. In a lot of ways, I’d like to broaden that kind of support to include not only people who work in legal service-type organizations, but people who work in rural areas, people who are providing real legal services to regular working people who couldn’t afford lawyers. I wish society was able to help defray education expenses for people who do that kind of work, like they do in medicine.
There is a real question about how many resources are ever going to be available for this kind of thing. We, as a society, don’t make as much of a commitment to providing legal services to everyone, regardless of income, as we do with healthcare and that may be a justifiable decision. But that’s a reality and I don’t see it really changing.
You’ve noted that ABA rules favor law school faculty. Although you don’t favor abolishing tenure, what measures do you believe could provide law schools with more flexibility in that area?
There is a big debate about whether ABA standards should require tenure or some sort of security of position for faculty and it currently does. Regarding the proposal to potentially delete those requirements, I’m in favor of that change for certain philosophical reasons, even though I’m in favor of tenure.
In reality, most law schools wouldn’t change much at all, even if those standards were changed. First, everyone who currently has tenure or renewable contracts has a contractual right to that status and that wouldn’t change. And two, most universities have tenure outside of their law schools – even though they’re not required to by any regulatory authority because that’s the normal expectation and what the market for scholars and the best faculty requires.
So even if you’re in favor of that change, it isn’t likely to lead to any real significant change in the way current law schools are structured. But it would enable a law school started in the future to organize themselves in a different way if they choose.
The ABA basically put the task force’s reforms on hold. Do you anticipate any of the reforms to be resurrected in the near future?
It isn’t really accurate to say it was put on hold. The task force report has been released and is now a public document. What happened was that the Board of Governors elected not to consider specific resolutions that the task force had proposed for them, for reasons I don’t fully understand. It had to do with the form of the resolutions and the way the Board of Governors deliberate.
So our work is essentially finished. The report is now public, to be considered and debated. Whether the Board of Governors will take up our resolutions over the summer is an open question. Most of this report is directed to the public and people interested in legal education generally. And it isn’t like the Board of Governors even has the authority to implement what we were proposing.
Also, I want to point out that the ABA task force was appointed by the President of the ABA. The accreditation function is done by the legal education section within the ABA and it operates independently from the broader ABA as required by U.S. Department of Education regulations. People often talk about the ABA and legal education like it is one thing, but it’s important to keep the task force and the accrediting body separate.
What big things are happening at Loyola Law these days that makes you excited to come to work every day?
Our students continue to motivate me and everyone on the faculty here. We’re really fortunate that our jobs involve helping them start their careers.  More specifically, we’ve been making some changes that are modernizing the school in ways that are very exciting.
Talking about experiential learning, we recently increased credits that every students will need to have from two to six, so we made a real commitment to seeing that every student graduates with (at least) two real lawyering experiences. Another thing that’s exciting and motivating is how our students, even in this tough environment, continue to give so much of their time to public service activities, whether in clinics serving low income people or volunteering.  A few years ago, we were able to hire someone whose job is 100% to support these activities. And that’s one thing that continues to be inspiring about legal education: So many people want to use that legal training and expertise to help other people.