The US legal education system: proposals for reform

June 7, 2012 This article looks at the crisis in legal education and proposes reform to the federal loan system and to the American Bar Association-imposed accreditation standards for law schools as the way forward.

In regard to the federal loans system, the federal government could cap the total amount that each law student can borrow from the government, or cap the total amount of money an individual law school can receive. The latter option has the benefit of forcing schools to control enrollment numbers as well as tuition costs.

The government must also discontinue the practice of guaranteeing private loans, and should change the law so that private loans can be discharged in bankruptcy, which would make banks more wary of lending money to law students who are unlikely to repay. Law schools themselves could extend loans, thereby aligning their interests with the success of their students. 

The American Bar Association-imposed accreditation standards should be reformed to allow for more flexibility so that there can be greater differentiation among law schools — including lower-cost options - in order to encourage greater competition between law school models.

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