Washington, D.C. (July 6, 2015) The Steering Committee of the Association of American Law Schools’ Deans Forum has issued a statement on the proposal by the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Recommendations (TFARR) of the State Bar of California to change the requirements for taking the California Bar Examination. The committee, comprised of 15 law school deans, is charged with addressing the national impact of topics affecting law schools:
…The [TFARR] proposal is thoughtful and reflects concerns we share about this critical time of change for how law is practiced and taught, how legal services are delivered, and how barriers to justice and the rule of law grow. We commend many elements of the proposal and admire the process that brought together members of the bar and bench, educators, and administrators. Collaborations of this sort are essential if we are to improve legal education, law practice, and access to justice. But we have concerns about the proposed “competency training” requirement for those who wish to be admitted to the California bar. These concerns reflect our dual roles as law-school deans who are immersed in addressing the needs of our students and communities, and as participants in national and global discussions about the present and future of the legal profession.
… Although we admire the spirit and purpose of the TFARR proposal, the 15-credit-hour experiential requirement raises three concerns:
• The requirement will constrain experimentation in legal education and impair innovations currently underway and in development.
• The requirement will limit the flexibility and self-determination of individual students in studying law, and in planning diverse careers.
• The requirement will introduce complexity and uncertainty for law students attending schools across the country—many from California and many who will pursue careers in California but who do not attend law school in California—and undermine the efforts by the American Bar Association and law schools to ensure nationally uniform, minimum accreditation requirements that enable law students to pursue careers across the nation.
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…This is a critical time of challenge and opportunity for law schools and for the profession. We face complex issues about the future of the legal profession, not only in relation to how best to prepare law-school graduates and assess their abilities, but also how to diversify the profession and eliminate barriers that such assessment might erect. Collaborations joining lawyers, judges, business people, policymakers, and legal educators are crucial. For students, for clients, and for society, law schools need to pursue the most effective, and cost-effective, ways to equip law school graduates to serve individuals and entities—public and private, domestic and international—and to seek justice. We hope that the good work undertaken in California will advance rather than hamper the innovations and individual choices of law students and law schools.
A link to the full statement is available at http://www.aals.org/tfarr-statement/.
The Steering Committee of the AALS Deans Forum includes: Darby Dickerson (Texas Tech University School of Law); Dave Douglas (William & Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law); Ward Farnsworth (University of Texas School of Law); Claudio Grossman (American University Washington College of Law); Joan Howarth (Michigan State University College of Law); Lisa Kloppenberg (Santa Clara University College of Law); Marc Miller (University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law); Martha Minow (Harvard Law School and Chair of the Steering Committee); Blake D. Morant (The George Washington Law School and AALS President); Camille Nelson, (Suffolk University Law School); Wendy Purdue (University of Richmond School of Law); Susan Poser (University of Nebraska College of Law); Dan Rodriguez (Northwestern University School of Law); Avi Soifer (William S. Richardson Law School at University of Hawai’i); Kellye Testy (University of Washington School of Law), and Phillip Weiser (University of Colorado School of Law). Judith Areen, AALS Executive Director and past dean at Georgetown University Law Center also participated in discussions leading to the statement.