THE PRE-LAW AND LAW SCHOOL SUBCOMMITTEE
The Law School Subcommittee focused on the Conclave’s findings with respect to pre-law, law school, and the collaborative efforts between law schools and the practicing Bar. The conclave participants made the following observations and recommendations relating to pre-law activities:
• The profession, and specifically the organized bar, with the consent and input of the law schools, should prepare for pre-law advisers and potential law students a written outline, video, or description of both the many opportunities and options that are available in the practice of law itself and in the legal education process. The presentation should indicate the importance of developing analytical skills and written communication skills within undergraduate studies, regardless of major.
• We recognize the need to communicate to prospective students the importance of writing and conceptual skills and to express the expectation as to the kinds of educational experiences that we can consider important in developing these skills.
• One or more law schools, with assistance from the practicing Bar, should develop a pilot Bridge-the-Gap program for pre-law students. This program should provide specific assistance for students in learning the admissions process and in taking the LSAT successfully. The program could include such items as a description of practice opportunities and mock law school classes.
The Commission has discussed and reviewed the pre-law suggestions made by the Conclave. The Commission’s Pre-law and Legal Education Subcommittee consulted with several of Ohio’s law school admissions officers to determine what activities are being undertaken by undergraduate pre-law advisors and other groups, such as the Law School Admissions Council and the ABA, to adequately inform prospective law students of the skills needed to succeed in law school.
The Commission also investigated the prevalence, necessity, expense, and effectiveness of Law School Admission Test (LSAT) preparation courses and materials. The Commission found that while the expense varies, such courses and materials are widely available. Such preparation activities include studying sample questions in the Law Services Information Book, studying previous LSAT examinations, using preparatory guides published both by Law Services and other commercial publishers, attending commercial preparation courses, using LSAT preparation software, and self-study. Results indicate that combining several of these methods will yield improved results on the LSAT exam.34 The Law School Admissions Council has found in its surveys that the use of commercial preparation courses has increased in recent years.
A wealth of good information exists for those considering a legal education. The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools, available at most bookstores, provides a good discussion of the practice of law, how to choose a law school and financing a legal education. In addition, the American Bar Association has recently published a book entitled ABA Approved Law Schools: Statistical Information on American Bar Association Approved Law Schools, which is available in most bookstores. It provides valuable consumer information for prospective applicants about law schools, including placement rates, bar passage rates and costs. It provides valuable information about selecting law schools and the debt law school applicants might expect to incur. It also includes a good discussion of debt management, career outlook and values of the profession.
The Commission concludes that national initiatives such as law-related education, LSAT preparation, high school moot court programs, and undergraduate pre-law programs, together with specialized programs conducted by individual law schools, provide an adequate array of pre-law education to prospective law students. As a result, preparation of additional materials by the Court or bar is not necessary.
Law Schools and Collaborative Efforts
The Conclave participants made the following observations and recommendations relating to law schools and collaborative efforts between the bar and law schools:
• We endorse the law schools’ efforts to achieve greater diversity in their student bodies. We want to continue the development of programs that increase the likelihood of success by all students, particularly those students who are regarded as being at risk, in law school, on the Bar exam, and in the practice of law.
• We endorse and encourage the continuing development and improvement of skills courses in the law school curriculum to the extent that such activity is consistent, of course, with the mission of the institution.
• A course in professional responsibility should be mandatory during a law student’s first academic year and should, at a minimum, be a three-hour semester course. It should include considerations of legal ethics and professionalism and should have instruction by means of case or problem methods.
• A course in practice management should be considered by each law school as a third-year course, either as an elective course or as a voluntary non-credit course.
• Law schools should undertake to inculcate in young lawyers an appreciation for and understanding of long-term professional education.
• Law schools should incorporate into the curriculum information about the history, traditions, institutions, values, and aspirations of the legal profession including particularly its public service commitment.
• Law schools should not be asked to undertake more skills development in addition to what they already do at the expense of the core curriculum, rather the profession recognizes that skills development occurs throughout a lawyer’s career.
• We believe that the MacCrate Report accurately identifies the necessary professional skills and values for the legal profession. In an effort to implement those skills and values, we recommend the following: Law students should be treated as professionals, some of the elements of which include: (1) eliminate the Bar exam as currently administered; (2) substitute a board type examination to be administered during law school to test legal precepts and analysis learned in the first year or so of law school; (3) remaining course work should include skills and values training through teaching by practicing lawyers, the judiciary and the organized bar, law school faculty, and other professionals whose training and skills enable them best to teach those skills and values identified in the MacCrate Report; (4) the Supreme Court of Ohio should institute a postgraduate program to be conducted during the 60 to 90 days following graduation from law school, to be administered through the joint efforts of the bench, bar, law schools and to include the latest technology. At the conclusion of the program, the license to practice law in the courts of Ohio would be issued.
• Scholarly, practical, and in-depth study research and writing on and about the legal profession should be encouraged in order to create a sound basis for refinement of the skills and values that will be necessary for the legal profession in the 21st century.
• Law schools should provide every law student, without exception, with the opportunity to take a course or courses that teach basic practice skills. Experienced members of the practicing bar should be called upon to supplement existing law school resources in teaching courses as necessary.
• Every law student should be provided with sufficient instructions in legal writing, tailored to individual needs, to assure a basic confidence in legal writing.
• Lawyers in the profession, including law teachers, are a rich source of information and skills and talents. We should concentrate on ways we can collaborate. The understanding of the legal profession is a vital area of concern for the law schools and as part of that collaboration, law schools should focus upon studying, writing, evaluating, exploring, trying to understand, and critiquing the legal profession. This study could include such issues as fees, economics, practice, management, politics, training, lawyer satisfaction, and burnout. In addition, law faculty should rethink how professional responsibility is taught and what it contains. We can bring practitioners into the teaching of professional responsibility e.g. through team teaching with adjuncts.
• To develop a vehicle to improve collaboration among the teaching bar, the practicing bar and the judiciary to help students prepare for practice, consideration should be given to establishing a section of legal education or other special group within the bar that would attract and retain the teaching academic sector of our profession within the broader organized bar.
• We recommend a standing joint committee to develop creative approaches for using the skills and knowledge of practicing lawyers, in determining the content or helping evaluate and enrich the content of the law school courses, especially the values content.
• The Ohio State Bar Association should promote and become a clearinghouse and residence for practitioners and teachers for the Ohio law schools. The purpose of such program is to: (1) foster an exchange of ideas between the bar and law schools; (2) keep law schools abreast of real world problems; (3) expose students and faculty, by classes and seminars, to current issues facing practitioners; (4) give input to the schools on curriculum, placement, etc.; and (5) create a possible exchange program with law faculty members, changing places with practitioners. The appropriate officials from law schools and the OSBA should meet to work out the details of this program.
• We recommend that deans of law schools should provide faculty with appropriate incentives to cause them to want to interact with the practicing bar in a meaningful way to create new educational ways of dealing with the gaps.
• We recommend that the bar associations in Ohio, both the OSBA and the Metro Bars, create faculty liaison positions on their sections and committees. A specific place for law school faculty members to be invited to come and interact on a regular basis and participate with Bar association committee members.
• We recommend that the larger firms -- the smaller firms can do it too, but we think larger firms are more likely to be suited to do this -- to conduct departmental or subject matter colloquia in their firms on firm premises and specifically invite law faculty to come and interact with communication both ways.
• Law firms are to be encouraged to institute programs where law professors are brought into firms on a selective basis to work for some limited period of time on particular legal projects.
• We recommend the use of a local bar committee to counsel lawyers who engage in inappropriate behavior which does not rise to the level of ethical violations. The committee could function similar to the Impaired Lawyers Committee. And we recommend that judges should be encouraged to serve on such a committee and to report inappropriate behavior.36
As stated in the Introduction, the Commission’s Pre-law and Law School Subcommittee conducted a survey of Ohio’s law schools to assess the prevalence of skills courses being offered. The Subcommittee found that Ohio’s law schools’ curricula are rich in skills training and that the schools are committed to further innovation in this area. The Commission agrees with the Ohio Conclave recommendation that skills development courses should be endorsed and encouraged, and endorses the suggestion that law schools should provide every law student with the opportunity to take a course that teaches basic practice skills. This position is consistent with the American Bar Association’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools, which states that a law school "shall offer to all students... adequate opportunities for instruction in professional skills."37 The Commission also agrees that law schools should consider calling on experienced members of the practicing bar to supplement existing law school resources in teaching such courses. The Commission further agrees with the Conclave recommendation that law schools should offer a law office management course, either in their regular curricula, or in some other form (e.g., weekend programs). The survey results show that only one Ohio law school presently offers a course in law office management, and the Commission urges law schools to provide students with opportunities to learn about law practice management while they are in law school.
Regarding the recommendation that a course in professional responsibility be taught in the first academic year, the Commission recognizes that a course in professional responsibility is a mandatory course in every Ohio law school. Additionally, some schools offer advanced ethics and professionalism courses and also teach ethics pervasively throughout the rest of the curriculum. However, the Commission recognizes that, according to the results of the law school survey, none of the schools requires the professional responsibility course during the first academic year.
Ohio’s law schools offer professional responsibility courses during the students’ second or third year of law school, either as a two or three-hour course. Several schools reported encouraging professors to integrate ethics and professionalism issues into substantive courses. The Commission urges law schools to integrate ethics and professional issues into most courses, including first-year courses. To the extent that students are introduced to ethics and professionalism issues in first-year courses, the Commission is not concerned that law schools reserve formal professional responsibility classes until the second or third year of law school.
The Commission endorses the suggestion that law schools incorporate into their curricula information regarding the history, traditions, institutions, values, and aspirations of the legal profession, including its commitment to public service throughout a lawyer’s career. This position is also consistent with the curricular requirements contained in the ABA’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools.38 Again, some of this instruction could be supplemented by involving experienced and distinguished members of the bench and practicing bar. To improve such collaboration, the Commission urges the Bar to continue to encourage greater contact between the teaching sector of the profession and the broader organized bar. The Bar should facilitate the involvement of law professors in its Sections and Committees.
Consistent with the Conclave endorsement, the Subcommittee endorses and encourages the law schools’ efforts to achieve diversity in their student bodies. Meaningful diversity should be the goal, such that lawyers from diverse backgrounds improve the justice system by making equal opportunities for justice available to all. The Subcommittee recommends the continued development of diverse student bodies.39
The final law school suggestions made by the Conclave suggest that at least one skills course and sufficient legal writing instruction be provided to each law student during his or her law school experience. The Commission finds that the results of the survey demonstrate that law schools currently provide such opportunities to law students in Ohio.