With the cost of college tuition rising, the Illinois State Bar Association is making recommendations to keep law school affordable. After holding statewide hearings, the bar association has released a report that calls for changes in the way law schools deliver education.
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“The current system of educating law students is unsustainable,” said John Thies, a lawyer in Urbana and ISBA president. “The debt burden of new attorneys, combined with the difficult job market, is having a detrimental effect on the public’s ability to access quality legal services.” According to the report, the average law student graduates with over $100,000 of law school debt. After adding undergraduate costs and bar study loans, that debt often increases to $150,000 to $200,000.
The following are recommendations to mitigate the law school debt crisis and transform legal education to focus on educating lawyers at an affordable price:
Congress and the Department of Education should place reasonable limits in the amount that law students can borrow from the federal government.
Rather than allowing all accredited law schools to enroll students receiving federal student loans, Congress should restrict federal loan eligibility to schools whose graduates meet certain employment and debt repayment outcomes.
The federal government should ensure that funds available in these programs are targeted to students most in need.
Law schools must have the ability to experiment with new models of legal education to find the best ways to control costs while still delivering a quality education.
Law schools must transform their curricula to place more emphasis on practice-oriented courses with greater focus during the second and third years of school on helping students transition to practice through apprenticeships, practical courses and teaching assistantships rather than the more traditional doctrinal courses.
Needed reforms also include changes to law school faculty.