Comments at a recent conference are making waves among some members of the legal education community.
Critical Issues in Legal Education
More law schools should develop and encourage “experiential learning,” giving students access to clinics, externships and the like in order to smooth the transition from education to full-time employment, a new report advises.
Two years ago there was a stand-off in legal education. The American Bar Association, prompted by the Bush administration, wanted to impose new requirements for bar pass rates.
Supporters of diversity in law school felt it would be “a tsunami to the African American community.” Some argued it would result in the closure of three to five law schools, all with large minority enrollments. It could also mean that many law schools would admit fewer minorities, in order to avoid problems with the bar pass standard.
Law schools have long known that first-time bar pass rates for minority are dismal compared to others, and the reasons have long eluded them. But that has not stopped schools from taking proactive steps to help students pass the bar exam.
For years it was the secret in the closet — minorities, especially African-Americans, struggled with the bar exam.
While more than 95 percent of whites passed the bar exam on the first try, only 61.4 percent of African-American students did so, according to a 1998 study by the Law School Admissions Council.
Miami lawyer Stephen N. Zack, a partner in the national law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, was elected as president-elect of the American Bar Association in August 2009 — the first Hispanic American to achieve that distinction.
Zack is finishing a one-year term as president-elect before taking office as president in August 2010 at the ABA’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Mercer University recently announced the appointment of Gary J. Simon as dean of the Walter F. George School of Law.
Simon served as dean of Case Western Reserve Law School from 2006 through 2008. He also boasts experience as a professor of law at both Cornell University and the University of Texas, and as a clerk for the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
According to a recent study by the National Association of Law Placement, the employment rate for new law school graduates has fallen nearly four percentage points in two years. The employment rate is higher than many expected, but the overall rate may disguise weaknesses in the job market.
Walter Pratt, Jr. announced last week that he will step down as dean of the University of South Carolina School of Law next year. His term as dean will end August 2011.
Pratt, who has been dean since 2006, was asked by law school officials to form a panel to review the school’s scholarly and teaching efforts, according to a statement released by USC. Pratt came to USC after teaching at the University of Notre Dame Law School for 20 years.
New York Law School and Harvard Law School partnered up to produce a two-day conference called “Future Ed: New Business Models for U.S. and Global Legal Education.” The conference focused on ways to improve law schools, particularly improving the disparities between legal education and legal practice.
“The time has come to make our education more valuable,” announced New York Law School Dean Richard Matasar announced to a room bursting with legal professionals and law school deans.”