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“CLEAR” to study reforms to legal education and admissions

“CLEAR” to study reforms to legal education and admissions

November 29, 2023 -- The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) are embarking on an 18-month study committee that will examine the state of legal education and bar admission processes in the United States along with the decline in attorneys dedicating their careers to public interest and public sector practice.

The Committee on Legal Education and Admissions Reform (CLEAR) will make recommendations to state supreme courts for practical reforms that will enhance legal education and diversify bar admission processes where appropriate.

“The American justice system stands at a critical juncture. Our profession is falling short in meeting the public’s needs. There are vast legal ‘deserts’ where too many litigants are forced to confront an unfamiliar legal system without a lawyer. Legal service organizations dedicated to the public interest are unable to recruit and retain qualified attorneys. And, many new lawyers are not ‘practice ready’ upon admission to the bar,” said Chief Justice Gordon J. MacDonald of New Hampshire, who will chair the effort. “These issues contribute to a growing access-to-justice gap and undermine public confidence in our legal system. They must be addressed immediately.”

CLEAR will review the current state of legal education from admissions to law school to admission to the bar, and will focus on three discrete areas:

  • First, whether law schools are preparing students to be “practice-ready” upon graduation;
  • Second, identifying what is necessary to assess minimum competence to practice law, and identifying alternate approaches to meet such competence;
  • Third, factors behind the decline of public-service lawyering.

CLEAR will work collaboratively, in consultation with critical stakeholders from legal education, bar admissions, courts, and the practicing bar from across the country. CLEAR will also look to other professions for best practices in training and licensing.

The 12 members of the CLEAR committee are:

  • Chief Justice Gordon J. MacDonald, New Hampshire, Chair
  • Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon, New Mexico, Vice Chair
  • Elisa Butler, State Court Administrator, Wyoming
  • David K. Byers, State Court Administrator, Arizona
  • Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant, Utah
  • Chief Justice Megan Flynn, Oregon
  • Robert W. Horner, State Court Administrator, Ohio
  • Chief Justice Steven R. Jensen, South Dakota
  • Chief Justice Tom Parker, Alabama
  • Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush, Indiana
  • Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz, Delaware
  • Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill, Maine

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC), AccessLex Institute and Thomson Reuters Institute are providing financial and logistical support to CLEAR. A final report is anticipated by June of 2025.

For more information about CLEAR, contact NCSC court management consultant Rob Wall.

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