March 18, 2020

ABA commission offers principles to better align legal education, licensure to the 21st century

CHICAGO, March 18, 2020 —The American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Education today issued a set of principles and recommendations to more closely align legal education and licensure with the objective of better addressing the legal needs of the public and the nation’s access to justice problems.

The commission outlined its set of principles in a commentary titled, “Principles for Legal Education and Licensure in the 21st Century.” The commission set forth six “foundational principles” that it believes sets a common consensus for change, and eight “operational principles” as additional guidance on how the foundational principles can be used to guide change and strengthen alignment. 

“Through these principles, the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Education adds an important voice to the conversation about how to more closely align legal education and licensure to the needs of the public and clients,” ABA President Judy Perry Martinez said. “The ABA thanks commission members for their efforts and their fresh and forward-thinking recommendations.” 

In the commentary, the commission says “it is vital that all legal professionals and institutions recognize” each of the foundational principles to collectively approach a movement for change. The principles, in part, call for stewardship for future generations; critical inquiry and scholarship; access to affordable and effective legal assistance; service to clients and society; inclusivity that values diverse backgrounds, viewpoints and roles; and adaptability in a rapidly evolving and technology-enabled world. 

Hilarie Bass, who established the commission in 2017 during her tenure as ABA president, praised the commission for its extraordinary expertise and thought leadership. “We believe these principles can be considered the true north of what should be accomplished in our effort to provide an outstanding system of legal education and licensure for the next generation of this nation’s legal professionals,” she said.

The commission, chaired by Patricia D. White, professor and dean emerita at the University of Miami School of Law, was continued for one year by Immediate Past ABA President Bob Carlson. Its charter expired last fall.

“Our aim was to articulate fundamental principles which could form the basis for urgently needed systemic re-examination and reform of how we in the United States approach the education and licensure of legal professionals in the 21st century,” White said. “Perhaps most challenging of all, we wanted to do this in a document short enough to be widely read. We need everyone — not just academics and regulators — involved in the movement for change.” 

The commission’s commentary and principles reflect the opinions of its members and does not represent the position of any other ABA entity. 

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