GPT-4 on Legal Education and Licensing

March 20th, 2023 / By

ChatGPT has written passable law school essays, and GPT-4 has aced the bar exam. But what if, instead of asking AI to take our tests, we asked it about the future of legal education and licensing?

My colleague Andrea Sinner, who served as the Executive Director of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Education, decided to find out. While preparing for a class she co-teaches with Trish White (Professor and Dean Emerita at the University of Miami School of Law, and Chair of the ABA Commission) Andrea asked GPT-4: “What principles would we apply to the seemingly intractable problem of how to better align legal education and licensure in the United States to the modern needs for, and requirements of, legal service delivery?” That question is similar to the one that the ABA Commission asked its stakeholders.

Here is what GPT-4 had to say:

“To better align legal education and licensure in the United States with modern needs and requirements for legal service delivery, several key principles should be considered:

  1. Focus on Practical Skills: Legal education should prioritize the development of practical skills, such as legal research, writing, negotiation, and client counseling. This will ensure that graduates are well-prepared to meet the needs of clients in the real world.
  2. Technology Integration: Law schools should integrate technology into their curricula, teaching students how to use legal tech tools, such as AI-based legal research platforms, document automation, and case management systems. This will help future legal professionals stay competitive and efficient in the rapidly changing legal landscape.
  3. Access to Justice: Legal education should emphasize the importance of access to justice and the role of lawyers in addressing the justice gap. This can include incorporating clinical programs, pro bono opportunities, and courses on public interest law to expose students to the legal needs of underserved populations.
  4. Interdisciplinary Education: Law schools should encourage interdisciplinary learning, integrating courses from other fields like business, technology, and social sciences. This can help develop well-rounded legal professionals who can better understand and address the complex, multifaceted issues facing clients and society.
  5. Flexibility in Licensure: To better accommodate the diverse needs of legal service delivery, licensing authorities should consider offering more flexible pathways to licensure, such as limited licenses for specific practice areas or alternative routes for non-traditional applicants with relevant experience.
  6. Continuing Legal Education (CLE): Legal professionals should be required to participate in ongoing CLE to stay informed about changes in the law, technology, and best practices. This will help ensure that they can continue to meet the evolving needs of clients and the legal system.
  7. Emphasis on Ethics and Professionalism: Law schools should continue to emphasize the importance of ethics and professionalism, ensuring that future legal professionals understand their responsibilities to clients, the courts, and society.
  8. Collaboration and Communication: Legal education should promote collaboration and communication skills, emphasizing the importance of teamwork and the ability to work effectively with diverse clients and colleagues.
  9. Outcome-based Assessments: Licensing authorities should consider adopting outcome-based assessments that evaluate a candidate’s practical skills, knowledge, and ethical understanding, rather than relying solely on traditional examinations like the bar exam.
  10. Adaptability and Lifelong Learning: Law schools and licensing authorities should promote adaptability and lifelong learning, encouraging legal professionals to be proactive in identifying and addressing new challenges, technologies, and opportunities in the legal landscape.

By applying these principles, legal education and licensure in the United States can better align with the modern needs and requirements for legal service delivery, ultimately benefiting clients, the legal profession, and society as a whole.”

[End GPT-4] That’s a pretty eloquent statement–and a very effective summary of many ideas mooted in today’s world of legal education and licensing. One of the values of AI is its ability to synthesize ideas from a variety of sources. The synthesis, of course, depends on the materials provided to the AI in its training; it is possible that GPT-4’s sources favor the principles listed above over other perspectives on legal education and licensing. Still, it would be useful exercise for legal educators and bar examiners to consider this list. How well does your curriculum or licensing system accord with these principles?

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Council, Please Shape Up

August 6th, 2017 / By

The Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has weathered significant criticism over the last few years. Some of that criticism has been well founded; other attacks have been unfair. But now the Council is acting as its own worst enemy–pursuing a course that has already provoked significant criticism in the legal academy and probably will attract negative attention in the press.

As Jerry Organ explains in a detailed column, the Council voted in June to make several changes in the form used to report law school employment outcomes. The Council acted without any public notice, without following its usual processes, and without gathering input from anyone outside the Council. The lack of process is especially disturbing given: (a) some of the changes had previously provoked vigorous debate; (b) the Council had previously rejected some of the proposals in light of that debate; and (c) the Council–along with legal education more generally–has been accused of lacking transparency.

I am sure, as Council Chair Gregory Murphy has written, that the Council acted in good faith–believing that the changes would receive “universal, or near universal, acclamation.” But that’s the problem with disregarding process and input: a small group of decision makers can persuade themselves that they know best. This case is a good illustration of how even highly educated, well intentioned groups can fall prey to that fallacy.


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LST Reports Updated

May 11th, 2017 / By

As Debby pointed out, the ABA just released the latest employment statistics. Each school’s report is on the ABA website and their own website, but it’s not easy to compare schools in a giant spreadsheet, either with each other or year over year. I just updated the LST Reports with all the new data. These comparisons are easy using our tools.

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2016 Employment Outcomes

May 11th, 2017 / By

The ABA has posted its report on employment outcomes for the Class of 2016, along with two school-by-school spreadsheets. One of the spreadsheets tracks law school funded jobs that require bar passage; the other details other employment outcomes. My initial take-aways are:

  • Nationwide, the size of the graduating class fell 7.15%.
  • That decline allowed schools to register a slight increase in the percentage of graduates employed in the key category of full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar admission. That percentage rose from 59.2% to 61.8%.
  • The number of graduates employed in those job categories, however, fell from 23,687 for the Class of 2015 to 22,930 for the Class of 2016. That decline (3.1%) continues a trend noted last year, although the decline is smaller this year.
  • The number of students taking part-time JD Advantage jobs rose markedly–by 16.3% in the long-term category and 72.8% in the short-term one. The overall numbers are small compared to other job categories, but the jumps are noticeable.
  • The percentage of graduates known to be unemployed and seeking jobs declined from 9.7% to 8.8%. Those figures, however, must be read in connection with an increase in the percentage of graduates for whom employment status was unknown. If we assume that just a third of the latter graduates were unemployed and seeking work (a conservative estimate), then 10.04% of the Class of 2016 was still unemployed and seeking work ten months after graduation.

Overall, the report suggests continued weakness in the entry-level job market for law graduates. The decline in the absolute number of graduates holding full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar admission is worrisome–especially since we take that measure a full 10 months after graduation. Even more troubling is the fact that 10% of the nation’s law graduates are unemployed and seeking work a full ten months after graduation.

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LSAC Throws a Temper Tantrum

August 17th, 2016 / By

The Law School Admissions Council has thrown its latest tantrum.

In a letter to admissions professionals around the country, LSAC’s president, Daniel Bernstine, signaled that LSAC would stop certifying the accuracy of each law school’s LSAT and undergraduate GPA statistics. The certification is a joint effort between LSAC and the ABA to prevent law schools from lying about their admissions statistics.

LSAC agreed to certify admissions statistics in 2012 after months of roundly dismissing calls for certification. The group had claimed that certification would be cost prohibitive, despite nearly $60 million in total revenue in 2011 and a $10.7 million surplus in 2012. The group also claimed that certification was outside the scope of its organizational mission, despite its member law schools saying that LSAC was best positioned to protect the integrity of the admissions process.

Pressure mounted in 2011 and 2012 for LSAC to help the ABA after two law schools intentionally reported fraudulent data to the ABA and elsewhere, including to U.S. News and World Report for their annual law school rankings. In February 2011, Villanova University School of Law reported that an official at the law school intentionally reported fabricated LSAT and GPA statistics for an unknown number of years prior to 2010. Later that year, the University of Illinois College of Law admitted to intentionally fabricating the same statistics over a seven-year period. The school’s assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, Paul Pless, resigned as a result of the controversy.

This tantrum is LSAC’s second one this year. Both came after the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law announced that the school would allow applicants to submit GRE scores in place of LSAT scores.

At that time, LSAC threatened to strip Arizona of its membership, which would eliminate access to a variety of services. LSAC walked back the threat in May after pressure from its membership and anti-trust concerns.

So why is the ABA now the latest recipient of LSAC’s retribution?

In response to law schools hoping to utilize the GRE as a non-exclusive alternative to the LSAT, which is designed and administered by LSAC, the ABA is examining whether the GRE meets Standard 503. That standard provides that schools must use a “valid and reliable admission test to assist the school and the applicant in assessing the applicant’s capability of satisfactorily completing the school’s program of legal education.” The LSAT is the only nationally validated test as of right now, though Arizona independently validated the GRE and other schools are trying to also.

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July 31st, 2016 / By

Earlier this summer, a federal panel recommended suspending the ABA’s power to accredit new law schools for one year. The transcript for that meeting has now been published, so we can examine in detail what happened. It’s clear that the panel intended its action to “send a signal” to the ABA Council that accredits law schools. All of us in legal education need to hear that signal: It affects the standards we adopt for accrediting law schools, as well as the eligibility of our students to take the bar exam.


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Say What?

July 30th, 2016 / By

I just finished reading a transcript of the meeting during which the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity recommended that the Department of Education suspend the ABA’s power to accredit new law schools for one year. The transcript reveals some interesting details about the committee’s concerns; I will summarize those soon.

But before I do that, I can’t resist reporting the views of two “third party commenters” who spoke during the hearing. Committee rules gave each of these individuals 3 minutes to share their views.


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The Crisis That Wouldn’t End

May 14th, 2016 / By

The crisis in legal education was supposed to be over by now. The recession, after all, ended in June 2009. Even allowing for a slow recovery, legal educators predicted that JD hiring would be robust by this point. When applications fell and schools cut class sizes, educators hoped for a recovery bonus: An improved job market, combined with smaller graduating classes, would boost placement rates and attract applicants back to law school. Meanwhile, some projected, the economy would suffer a lawyer shortage.

Things haven’t worked out that way. As the ABA employment report for the Class of 2015 shows, JD employment remains depressed–and there is some evidence of a downward trend. In this post, I explain why law schools need to take this news very seriously.


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2015 Employment: Fixing the Fruit Salad

May 6th, 2016 / By

As promised, I explain here a quirk in the ABA’s employment report for the Class of 2015. That report shows that 62.4% of the 2015 graduates obtained jobs that require bar admission (“lawyering” jobs), while just 59.2% of the graduates secured lawyering jobs that were also full-time and long-term (i.e., expected to last at least one year).

Those percentages are sobering in themselves, but they are even more worrisome when compared to percentages for the Class of 2014. For the latter class, the ABA reports that 64.1% of graduates obtained lawyering jobs, with 59.9% of the graduates landing full-time, long-term jobs in that category. The percentage of graduates securing lawyering jobs, in other words, seems to have declined.

Things are bad, but not quite that bad. Here’s where the data quirk comes in.


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Class of 2015 Employment: How Bad Is It?

May 3rd, 2016 / By

After a few data glitches, the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has released its report on employment outcomes for the Class of 2015. The Section’s scorecard, comparing the Class of 2015 to the Class of 2014, appears here.

The numbers are pretty sobering: Absolute numbers declined in every employment category. Law firms, for example, hired 1,574 fewer graduates than they did in 2014. That’s a dismaying decrease of 8.8%. Government employers showed similar retrenchment: They too hired 8.8% fewer graduates in 2015.

Graduating class size also fell 8.8% between 2014 and 2015, which shored up the percentage of 2015 graduates obtaining jobs. Law schools, however, did not gain much ground in placing a higher percentage of their graduates. Smaller classes merely kept pace with a contracting job market.

I will have more details tomorrow, including an explanation for why the percentage declines in the top ten lines of the table are overstated. The news on those lines, which detail jobs requiring bar passage and those for which a JD is considered an advantage, is disheartening–but not quite as bad as the reported percentages suggest. The ABA changed its reporting methods between 2014 and 2015, so those comparisons match pineapples to prunes–a fruit salad you would never want to serve.



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