Kate Kruse, President of the Clinical Legal Education Association, reports that CLEA called on the ABA Council on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar to expand accreditation requirements to include 15 credits in experiential learning.
Today, the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA), the nation’s largest association of law professors, formally petitioned Council of the American Bar Association’s Section for Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to amend its law school accreditation standards to require every J.D. law student to complete the equivalent of at least 15 semester credit hours after the first year of law school in practice-based, experiential courses, such as law clinics, field placements, or skills simulation courses, with at least one course in a law clinic or externship.
Repeated ABA studies have shown the need to enhance significantly the professional skills training of students in law schools. However, the Section has done very little to address these persistent calls for reform. Current law school accreditation standards only require a single credit of experiential learning out of an average of 89 total academic credits, a dismal 1% of a law student’s preparation for practice. Other professions (such as medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary, social work, etc.) require that at least one quarter, and up to more than one half, of a graduate’s pre-licensing education be in role in supervised professional practice.
CLEA contends that the present standards do not adequately prepare students for the practice of law and that 15 hours of professional experience (representing about one-sixth of a student’s total credit hours) are certainly the minimum necessary to ensure that law school graduates are competent to begin practicing law. Concerned that the ABA was not doing enough, the California State Bar Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform recently proposed a similar pre-admission practical skills training program for all law students seeking admission to the California bar. CLEA’s proposed amendment, filed under Rule 803(d) of the ABA Rules of Procedure for Approving Law Schools, requires the ABA to formally refer the request to committee and report back with a recommendation regarding the proposal.