Publication yesterday of the membership of the American Bar Association’s new think-tank on legal education has me hopeful that this could be a much more significant exercise (both for the US and in terms of benchmarking thinking internationally) than the last (2014) ABA Taskforce (which I blogged about here).
I’m afraid that as a non-US scholar, some of the names don’t mean much to me, but the ones that do had me sit up and take notice. First, the Commission is chaired by Prof Patricia White, Dean of Miami Law School. Miami has always been an interesting place (William Twining and John Flood – two leading Brit scholars that I know – have had long associations there) and of course Miami is well known in innovation circles as home of the fabulous Law Without Walls (LWOW) phenomenon. Then there are Harvard’s Prof David Wilkins, Director of the Center on the Legal Profession, and USC’s Prof Gillian Hadfield – both scholars I would consider at the top of the game in matters of the legal profession and legal services. I particularly like Gillian Hadfield’s work on legal systems design, and her insights into the impact of the market for training on access to justice are crucial (they certainly influenced some our thinking in the English Legal Education and Training Review – LETR). On the practice side, the absence of Wall Street, and the presence of pro bono champion David Stern alongside Spotify GC, Horacio Gutierrez, points to some serious thinking about the changes and challenges facing future professionals. Last, and perhaps the biggest surprise, is the inclusion of the inimitable Richard Susskind. It strike me as very unusual for an ABA Commission to look to expertise from outside a US jurisdiction, and given Richard’s quite provocative views on the failure of legal education to move into the 21st Century (see his Tomorrow’s Lawyers, and related Consultant’s Report for the LETR), this promises to be interesting.
The Commission describes its brief as follows:
The Commission on the Future of Legal Education will take a leadership role in anticipating, articulating and influencing what will be dramatic changes in the legal profession in the next decade and beyond. The Commission will explore possible changes to methods of training and testing the future generations of law students. It will seek to bring the perspectives of various constituencies to the table including judges, deans, professors and practitioners. Various subcommittees of the Commission will focus specifically on key issues including the bar exam, alternative teaching methods, length of law school and other issues identified by the group.
Note too the unusual emphasis on (alternative) pedagogy in this statement, a topic this kind of high level exercise often overlooks. In short: watch this space!