Law Schools

ABA President to Boxer: Law Grads Shouldn't Be 'Shadowed by Overwhelming Debt'

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Nobody is more concerned about the future of the legal profession and the value of a legal education than the ABA, association President Stephen N. Zack said Wednesday.

Zack wrote in a letter (PDF) to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that the ABA already distributes information that can help prospective students make informed, smart decisions about whether and where to attend law school, including a 2009 paper (PDF) on the value proposition of attending law school prepared by a special ABA commission. It also encourages prospective students to read the highly detailed, comparative information about law schools contained in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, Zack said.

Beyond that, the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the U.S. Department of Education’s recognized accreditor for legal education, has two committees that are hard at work on projects that could result in more detailed employment, placement and salary information by ABA-approved law schools, the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar added in a memo (PDF) attached to Zack’s letter. The memo included an overview of the work of the section’s standards review committee, which is in the midst of a comprehensive review of law school accreditation standards, and its questionnaire committee, which is considering changes in the annual questionnaires that law schools submit to the section to provide data relevant to accreditation. The questionnaire committee will be reporting on its recommended changes to the council of the section at its meeting in June. The work of the standards review committee is expected to last another year.

The Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar said in its memo that it “takes very seriously” its responsibility to ensure that law schools provide accurate, complete and helpful information to current and prospective students. It also said it believes that transparency will assist prospective students in determining whether to attend law school and, if so, which school to attend.

Also, the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, at Zack’s request, is looking into how the ABA can encourage the additional dissemination of relevant information on job opportunities, careers and salaries.

Zack’s comments came in response to a March 31 letter to him from Boxer urging the ABA to push law schools to disclose more information about the actual costs and benefits of a legal education.

“No one could be more focused on the future of our next generation of lawyers than the ABA and the legal profession for whom we speak,” Zack wrote. “An interest in pursuing justice should not leave someone with a life shadowed by overwhelming debt.”

Boxer could not be reached for comment.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Despite Criticism, a Review of ABA Standards for Law Schools Is Moving Forward”

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