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Saving Lawyers from Themselves -- and From the ABA

Here in Massachusetts where I practice, debate continues over a plan by the University of Massachusetts to open the state's first public law school. A key concern raised by the plan's opponents is that a new law school would only add more lawyers to an already-flooded market. That view is shared by lawyers in other states, who contend there are too many new law schools springing up and producing too many new lawyers.

The situation has grown so dire that it calls for federal intervention, one such critic, Washington lawyer and writer Mark Greenbaum, writes today in the Los Angeles Times. He blames the glut of law schools -- and thereby of lawyers -- on the American Bar Association, which is charged with law school accreditation. The ABA, he contends, "continues to allow unneeded new schools to open and refuses to properly regulate the schools, many of which release numbers that paint an overly rosy picture of employment prospects for their recent graduates."

Greenbaum's proposed remedy is to bring in the feds to oversee a coup d'├ętat:

The U.S. Department of Education should strip the ABA of its accreditor status and give the authority to an organization that is free of conflicts of interest, such as the Assn. of American Law Schools or a new group. Although the AALS is made up of law schools, it is an independent, nonprofit, academic -- not professional -- group, which could be expected to maintain the viability and status of the profession, properly regulate law schools, curtail the opening of new programs and perhaps even shut down unneeded schools. The AALS has cast a very skeptical eye on for-profit schools, compared with the ABA's weak hands-off accreditation policies.

Such a move would be unprecedented, he concedes, but is necessary. "The legal profession," he argues, "must be saved from itself."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 8, 2010 at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

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