Council Hears Testimony on 405, experiential credits and pro bono

The past two days in frigid Chicago, members of the Council on Legal Education heard testimony from almost 20 speakers deeply interested in the  future of legal education and the education of future law students.  I was fortunate  to make it out of icy New Yorkto be able to attend yesterdays morning session.  I was impressed with the speakers’ deep knowledge of legal education and  their mastery of the intricacies of each of the multiple versions of proposed revisions.  Several speakers advocated strengthening the pro bono requirements of the standards.  Even more  argued in support of the proposal to require 15 credits of experiential courses.

The issue of whether students could receive academic credit for paid employment received serious attention.   DePaul Law Student Matthew Kerbis of the ABA’s Law Student Division requested that the Council change the standards to allow students to receive both credit and pay, while Professor Kate Kruse  of the Clinical Legal Education Association urged that the current rules properly acknowledge that paid employment and a properly structured academic experience involve different sets of goals, legal frameworks and expectations.  Judge Solomon Oliver, Chair of the Council,  asked about possible exploitation of  law students by employers.

SALT representative and University of Minnesota Professor Carol Chomsky,  American University’s Professor Ann Shalleck and Hamline’s Professor Kate Kruse, all tenured professors, each argued against the two alternatives to 405 now before the Council, which effectively eliminate tenure and security of position for future teachers.  They all agreed that the Council should support tenure and 405(c) security  of position so that legal educators may continue to exercise academic freedom,  to contribute educational perspectives to institutional governance, and to transform the outdated Langdellian model and integrate the professional development  of law students’ practical lawyering and reflective judgment into American Legal education. As American clinical faculty became more secure under tenure and 405 (c), they took risks in teaching, pioneering a pedagogy which has become a model nationally and internationally. However, for those without tenure, Kruse argued supported by a chart CLEA submitted, there is a demonstrable absence of meaningful participation.

The President of the Association for Legal Writing Directors, Anthony Niedwiecki argued in a similar vein  for the need to provide security of position and meaningful participation in governance to  legal writing professors.  In his testimony, Professor  Niedwiecki referred to a recent survey of legal writing faculty which ironically shows attacks on LRW professors at the very moment that the profession and accreditors are demanding law schools provide the multiple assessments and hands on skills development LRW professors do best.

In my experience, at my school, the warnings of Kruse, Shalleck, Chomsky and Niedwicki are not speculative. We are experiencing those attacks now.

For written comments (including my own) submitted to Standards Review see http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/council_reports_and_resolutions/20130906_notice_comment_chs_1_3_4_s203b_s603d.authcheckdam.pdf

Tune in later today for a report on the Standard Review Deliberations.

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