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The Future of Legal Education: Preparing Law Students to Be Great Lawyers

Oregon Law Review
04.22.15

For decades, many law school graduates have looked back at their legal education and concluded that they were not properly prepared to practice law. Consequently, from time to time, the American Bar Association (ABA) and other bar groups have studied how to change law school education. In fact, in 2009, the Association of Continuing Legal Education Administrators (ACLEA), the American Law Institute-American Bar Association (ALI-ABA), and a number of other organizations held a three-day discussion at Arizona State University on the future of legal education, the Critical Issues Summit. The event "brought together CLE professionals, law school deans and faculty members, law practitioners, bar leaders, judges, mandatory CLE administrators, law firm educators, and other experts on lawyer professional education to study and respond to the challenges of equipping lawyers to practice in a rapidly changing world." Among other things, the Critical Issues Summit produced a final report and sixteen recommendations addressing issues related to law school preparations for legal practice and legal training for lawyers after law school.

After the Critical Issues Summit, ACLEA established a Summit Issues Group in an effort to continue the dialogue about the future of training law students to practice law. This Article highlights key issues from the Critical Issues Summit that are particularly important to changing law school education today. Additionally, it offers suggestions that could further improve preparing students for the legal profession.

SUMMIT RECOMMENDATIONS

In the Sections that follow, I will describe specific portions of the Summit Recommendations and reflections I have had as a law student, lawyer, and adjunct law professor. Unlike most people who attend law school expecting to pursue legal careers, I went to law school never intending to practice law. Instead, I planned to pursue a career in IT consulting after law school, and therefore I taught graduate computer sciences while I studied law. While I became a sole practitioner and eventually went on to join a law firm, my computer science and legal background have given me particular insight into IT legal matters. Further, as an adjunct law professor, I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach a variety of courses on IT legal matters and share my experience with hundreds of students, many of whom I keep in touch with, and I have even practiced law with some former students. As a result, I am also able to offer a unique perspective on how the Summit Recommendations may be helpful to legal education for law students based on my experiences and students' input.

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