ABA Section Releases New Survey of Law School Curricula
CHICAGO, Feb. 10, 2005 – As demands on lawyers evolve due to globalization, greater competition, consolidation of firms and integration of specialties, law schools are adding emphasis on practical legal skills, enabling new law school graduates to be more effective sooner in their first jobs. This is just one of the findings of a new study released today by the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
“It has been 18 years since the last comprehensive study of law school curricula,” said Catherine Carpenter, chair of the section’s Curriculum Committee. “Now more than ever, as the legal profession grapples with a changing world, this research is vital.”
Spearheaded by the committee, “Survey of Law School Curricula” reports comparative data about law school programs in 1992 and 2002. It documents that skills and simulation course opportunities increased; legal research and writing courses are more prevalent; live client and externship opportunities grew; specialization and elective opportunities expanded in cutting edge areas such as intellectual property law, international law and business law; and more schools offer joint degrees and post-J.D. degrees.
“There has been a decade of dynamism in legal education,” said Professor Carpenter, who teaches at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. “From the first year required curriculum through upper division electives, law schools have revised the configuration of courses, increased emphasis in skills and professionalism, and added opportunities in electives, specializations and other degree-granting offerings.”
The study addresses five areas of legal education: requirements for graduation, first-year course requirements, upper division curriculum, postJ.D. and nonJ.D. degrees, and distance education courses. A sixth section reports observations by respondents on curricular changes at their institutions.
The study compared ABA annual questionnaire data from 1992-93 and 2002-03. It also drew on results from an electronic survey distributed in September 2003 to all ABA-approved law schools. The ABA annual questionnaire data reflect responses from all 175 ABA-approved law schools in 1992-93 and all 187 ABA-approved law schools in 2002-03. For the electronic survey 152 law schools responded, representing 82.5 percent of the ABA-approved law schools in 2002. Respondents to the survey were a broad cross section of ABA-approved law schools, representing institutions from 48 of 51 jurisdictions of varying size, age and affiliation.
Copies of “Survey of Law School Curricula” are available for purchase at the ABA online bookstore for $19 at www.ababooks.org or through the ABA Service Center at 1-800-285-2221. Refer to product code 5290095.
The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar strives to improve legal education and lawyer licensing through workshops, conferences and publications. Via its Accreditation Committee and the Section Council, it determines law schools’ adherence with the ABA’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools and recommends the accreditation of law schools by the association. The section also studies and makes recommendations for the improvement of the bar admission process.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.