Risking Illness and Death For The Chance To Become A Lawyer

In this blog post Professor Allie Robbins eloquently sets out why, during this crisis, states should implement alternative law licensing methods. She argues states should forego in-person exams this year to avoid the inevitable health risks to bar-takers, their families, and the members of the public who come into contact with them. The entire blog is set out below. It’s a powerful piece that hopefully will find its way to state boards of bar examiners and state supreme court justices as “food for thought”.

“Please do not hold the bar exam this year. Do not hold it in July. Do not hold it in September. Maybe not even next February. Figure out a better way to license attorneys. There are many options.

Recent liability waivers from Mississippi and North Carolina demonstrate that you understand the serious dangers posed by taking a two-day exam in person surrounded by a lot of other people. The fact that you are finding it difficult to find proctors and are asking for help from “young attorneys” says that your own people are telling you it is too risky.

Putting hundreds, or even dozens, of stressed out people in a room together for hours and hours in the midst of a global pandemic is a public health disaster. Temperature checks only tell you if someone has a fever, not whether someone has the virus. Many transmissions if COVID-19 occur from asymptomatic individuals. Masks are helpful, but not 100% effective. Some of you are permitting masks but not requiring them, leaving many potential carriers the option of exposing those around them. Have you tried to do 100 MBE questions with a mask on? The anxiety surrounding the bar exam is immeasurably high in normal times. This, is taking it to an unimaginable new level.

There doesn’t have to be a bar exam. But if you think there does, you can do it online, as Nevada and Indiana will be doing. Those of you in UBE states may feel that you no longer have the capacity to administer your own exam. But you did it not that long ago. You can do it again. There are expert exam writers at your local law schools who can help. You could even work together and have each state draft one essay question. There are many options. Please explore them.

There are concerns about exam security. But if that is the driving force for having an in person exam, then you are prioritizing fears about cheating over the protection of human life. Do you really think so little of the next class of attorneys that they must risk their lives to prove to you that they would not cheat on an exam?

Ask yourself honestly, would you take the bar exam during this pandemic? Would you encourage your child to? Do you really want to be responsible for the next surge in your community?

You may counter that hundreds of applicants have registered so they must want to take it. But what they want is to be a licensed attorney. Their registration is a product of employer pressure, fear, and the perverse incentives of the legal profession. Despite their registration, they are terrified.

We owe it to the newest members of our profession not to sacrifice their health for the sake of the status quo. Nothing is the same right now, and it shouldn’t be. We are in the midst of a worldwide health crisis. Is the bar exam actually worth risking their lives for? Is there really no way to determine who is minimally competent to be an attorney, other than to have them all gathered together in a room for two days?

The purpose of the bar exam is, ostensibly, to protect the public. What about protecting law graduates?

These waivers may protect you from legal liability, but if you go forward with an in-person bar exam, you will still be responsible for spreading COVID-19 throughout the population of new law graduates, their friends, families, and communities. How can this possibly be the right decision?”

Law Students Lead Intersectionally

“At this painful time, I see law students leading in the intersectional manner that will move us forward. I have attached Albany Law Affinity Groups student statement here. Please feel free to post and comment what your students are doing!”  ML


Hello everyone,

I hope you are safe and well. Some of Albany Law’s student groups wanted to take a moment to address current events.

Our fellow students are suffering in ways we cannot imagine. The deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other members of the black community are a tragedy and a disgrace. OUTLaw, Latin American Law Student Association, Women’s Law Caucus, Muslim Law Students Association, and Asian Pacific American Law Students Association denounce racist actions against the black community. We promise solidarity with black students and the Black Law Students Association. And as student leaders entering the legal profession, we will take active steps to fight systemic racism and provide support in our fields.

On behalf of all of us: We love you. We are here for you. We see your pain and grief. We will make space for you. We will listen to you. We will share your stories. We will follow your lead. We will fight for you. We encourage other clubs and groups to make similar commitments. Active support means everything.

If you have the resources, please donate to any of the organizations listed below:
Citizen Action of New York
New York State NAACP
National Bail Fund Network
American Civil Liberties Union
Minnesota Freedom Fund
Black Visions Minnesota
Campaign Zero
Reclaim the Block

And/or give your time and support by signing petitions and reaching out to public officials. A master list of petitions and numbers is available at blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

We are stronger together,


MOVING FORWARD: DAY TWO OF DREXEL (and some favorite poetic quotes)

Congratulations are in order to Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, to Dean Dan Filler and to all who planned and presented at the virtual conference.  LEANING INTO UNCERTAINTY: ENSURING QUALITY LEGAL EDUCATION DURING CORONAVIRUS.  Previously,  I wrote a few thoughts about Day One of the conference.  In this post, I will focus on Day Two. But first, good news for those of you who were unable to join virtually: Drexel’s Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Research, Alex C. Geisinger, plans to create a digest of the ideas and questions raised and discussed at the conference. As law schools face the evolving uncertainty presented by both the virus and the conflicting responses of our state and federal leaders, they will benefit from the kind of collaborative efforts and stimulating exchange of ideas that the Drexel conference organizers skillfully facilitated.  As I work with my law school colleagues to plan an exciting and enriching Fall 2020 Semester, I am using the wisdom gained from the conference. A few maxims from yesterday’s gathering stayed with me:
  • Acknowledge and name your biggest WORRY.
  • In crisis, there is OPPORTUNITY.
  • There is always ANOTHER crisis, we just don’t know what it will be.
I was reminded by the wise words of William Butler Yeats

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold  

Below I share five conference discussions which interested me. 1.  Relationships Still Matter and Matter Even More We know from LSSSE that for health and wellness and law students “Relationships Matter.”  How do we prioritize and facilitate those in a virtual or partly virtual world?
  • Phone call contact with each incoming 1L to find out worries, concerns, and hopes and model that relationships with individuals at the school matter.
  • Throughout semester, should teachers, staff, and administrators be polling the mood of the day or the week?
  • Set up a more systematic “social work case management system” to keep tabs on individual student, staff, and faculty wellness.
  • Provide in a simple format directly to each student in a personal phone call, meeting, or interaction a single document which outlines who the actual person and contact is when in trouble – academically, financially, emotionally, physically.  Maybe start this process over the summer using all employees  throughout the law school?  (CALI worked on a lesson that each school can use to modify the system or contact flow Lesson is at https://www.cali.org/lesson/18103)
  • Prioritize peer-to-peer opportunities for mentoring, collaboration, and synergy.
2.    Create Distinct “Places” for Students To Be
  • Virtual Libraries
  • Virtual Study Spaces
  • Virtual Social Spaces
  • Dedicated physical place for experiential learners to access supplies – not necessarily in clinic office space.
Makes me think of having students feel they have in the words of poet Mary Oliver’s a “place in the family of things”
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting— over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
3. Anticipate Enforcing Safety and Health Regulations During A Polarized Presidential Election Season
  • Messaging and Communication of Community Rules
  • Incorporate into Student and Personnel Regulations
  • Harder to Anticipate What Will Happen in a Public School Setting
4.  What changes are Temporary? What Will Continue after the Pandemic? Although forced to engage in Remote Emergency Teaching, Professors became facile with useful pedagogical online tools and will incorporate them into their general toolbox.
  • Investment already made in technology will accelerate usage.
  • This was all going to happen anyway as part of Law School 2.0?
  • Increasing options for law students? For institutions growing online programming?
  • Will law schools and universities be more open to allowing staff to work remotely?
  • Will we better appreciate, celebrate, and prioritize the importance of presence and in-person relationship in Higher Ed Learning?
5. With the impact of COVID-19 elevating the issues of access disparity and the diverse needs of our students, how can law schools minimize the threat to learning continuity and academic success?
  • Continue to modify assessment and grading practices?
  • Financial Insecurity?
    • Loss of Employment
    • Food Insecurity  – Virtual Food Pantry
    • Rent and Housing
    • Alums offered physical space (offices) for students without good space to study and take exams.
  • Supporting caregivers and others with outside responsibilities.
  • Evolving accommodations for students with disabilities and immune-suppressed students as we change the manner and methods of teaching.
The above five are a poor summary of the many ideas and queries raised at the conference and thus I look forward to the report back. As we arrive at the end of May 2020, take courage and know we are all in this TOGETHER!
One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.  Maya Angelou

“Take-Aways” from Day 1 of Drexel Conference

Over 1,000 legal educators are taking part in a two day conference “Leaning into Uncertainty: Ensuring Quality Legal Education During Coronavirus,”  hosted by Drexel Law School and University.  Brief opening plenary remarks were made by Northwestern Law Professor Daniel Rodriguez who cautioned against “virtue signaling” noting that today on May 26th, we don’t know the choices students, faculty and others will make in August.   He called for legal educators to work across law schools to engage in “Collaboration on Steroids!”

After very brief “framing” discussions of questions, participants were assigned into scores of breakout groups.  Today’s Roundtable topics included:

Roundtable 1: Beyond Zoom! Moving from Emergency Virtual Classrooms to a Rigorous, Engaging Online Experience

Roundtable 2: Designing Curriculum and Programs in a World of Social Distancing: Sections, Schedules and Changing Circumstances

Roundtable 3: Maintaining High Quality Experiential Learning Opportunities from a Distance

Each breakout group recorder took notes which will be compiled into a report.  The hope is to make the lessons from the conference useful this summer as legal educators re-imagine law school operations and adapt our teaching methods and designs to meet student and public health needs.

I was able to participate in Roundtable 1 and 3 and found the discussions useful in thinking about my summer course redesign, the needs of our Justice Center, and the different way different schools can adapt and innovate. I jotted down a few “take-aways:”


  • Time and Space are no longer the same as they were pre-pandemic.
  • To be a good teacher virtually, just like teaching in residence,  you have to be YOU!
  • What parts of your teaching are MOST important to be Synchronous? and how do we move other parts to be asynchronous?
  • Who could we record now (besides ourselves!) that we can use for asynchronous learning this FALL .. For e.g., share a hypo with other faculty in your department, or other subject matter experts from other law schools, or practitioner experts and record their reaction to a hypothetical that you can assign students to review after having discussed the hypo in breakout groups and  reported back.
  • If we are socially distanced with masks, and spread apart in the classroom, and we are teaching both virtually (through the class streaming or recording) and in residence at the same time, what works for that kind of socially distanced teaching? Might Zoom sometimes work better?

Community Building Ideas

  • ESPECIALLY for 1L’s in building community – Use Zoom questions for registering to ask students community building questions regarding hobbies
  • Start now to create break out rooms for 1Ls pre-assigning over the summer with asking of human questions.
  • Opening up Zoom 10 minutes ahead as if you are standing by podium and can be asked questions
  • Reframe the week – conversation starts on chat or CANVAS before class and continue  into and after class. 
  • Offer off class opportunities for virtual tea, coffee, happy hours to discuss what’s happening with students generally or what’s happening in the world


  • Take Advantage of this moment.  Clinics and experiential courses could serve as important front line workers for the unprecedented need for legal services.
  • How do we overcome barriers to actually get to the people in need and to get them what they need?
  • How do we teach students to be community and client-centered if we are not in the community but physically or socially distanced?
  • How do we prepare students and ourselves to perform competently in the world of virtual courts and lawyering when the rules, protocols and comfort level with the virtual differ across kind of state and federal courts and among different judges?
  • How do we build the people-centered core of clinical work that helps students develop skills, values and networks in interpersonal relationships?
  • How do we resource our students and clients for virtual legal practice?

Lots to chew on and looking forward to hearing more tomorrow!

A Sneaky Peek at CSALE 2019-20: Clinical Law Faculty and Their Courses – by Robert R. Kuehn, Washington University School of Law

The Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE) is in the final weeks of collecting data for its 2019-20 tri-annual survey of clinical legal education.

The CSALE Master Survey was completed in the fall by over 94% of law schools; the follow up CSALE Sub-Survey was sent earlier this year to almost 2,000 law clinic and externship instructors. The ongoing Sub-Survey collects information on each instructor’s position and courses and will remain open for additional respondents until the end of May. CSALE will publish a detailed report on the 2019-20 survey, its fifth, in late summer, available with prior reports on its website.

But there’s no need to wait. Some of the data in the CSALE Master Survey is available now, and it shows both stability and change in clinical legal education. Relatively unchanged was the number of law clinics, with schools reporting 1,521 clinics, a median of 7 per school, unchanged over the last three surveys. Six schools offer no law clinics and three offer just one, while seven schools reported more than 20. There are some significant changes in the substantive focus of clinics. The most common now is Immigration (displacing Criminal Defense), offered at 63% of schools, a 34% increase in just three years. Intellectual Property clinics also greatly increased in number (at 35% of schools, up 50% from the last survey), as did Entrepreneur/Small Business (now at 36% of schools).

Student demand for law clinics is up slightly from CSALE’s 2016-17 survey, perhaps reflecting the new ABA six-credit experiential coursework graduation requirement. At 46% of schools, student demand for clinics increased over the past three years (compared to 38% in the last survey), while at only 10% did demand decrease (19% in last survey). In contrast, in the 2010-11 CSALE survey, 80% of schools experienced increased law clinic demand, while only 1% reported a decrease. The most common reasons given for decreased demand in the current survey were the school’s smaller student body and the students’ belief they should spent their time on bar subject courses.

With externships, criminal (prosecution and/or defense), government, judicial, and public interest law offices continue to be the most common types of field placement practice areas offered to students. A majority of placements continue to be in litigation or dispute resolution practice. At nine schools, 90% or more of placements are litigation/dispute resolution focused, while over 80 schools place less than 10% of their students in transaction-focused offices.

Similar to the last CSALE survey, over half of schools now allow students to receive more than 10 credits in a field placement course, with almost all of those schools (98%) permitting “full-time placements” outside the vicinity of the law school. Fewer than one quarter of schools permit students to extern with a law firm. And while 45% of schools prohibit placements at in-house counsel offices of for-profit entities, only four schools prohibit placements at not-for-profit entities. Compensation (paid externships) without conditions or limits, such as from law firms or for-profit corporations, is only offered at 17% of schools:

CompensationPercentage of Schools
Permitted, no conditions17%
Permitted, with conditions(e.g., source other than placement site)19%
Not Permitted64%

Demand for field placement courses is up slightly – 47% of schools report increased demand over the past three years (compared to 42% in the prior survey) – with decreased demand down from 15% of schools three years ago to just 7% in the current survey. Like law clinics, demand for field placement courses peaked in the 2010-11 survey when 76% of school reported increased demand and only 1% reported a decrease.

Looking at faculty changes, schools reported a median of 12 persons teaching in a law clinic or field placement course, full- or part-time, including adjuncts, staff attorneys, fellows, etc. This is up slightly from 11 per school in the last two CSALE surveys. The percentage of clinic and externship courses taught by full-time clinical faculty, however, continues to decrease. During this academic year, 65% of clinical teachers were full time, down from 72% full time in 2016-17, 78% in 2013-14, and 82% in 2010-11.

The status of those teaching full-time shows slightly more clinical teachers (law clinic and externship) on contract and somewhat fewer on some form of tenure (combining traditional and clinical tenure) – dropping to 29% after 35% in the three prior surveys:

Employment StatusCSALE  2010-11CSALE  2013-14CSALE  2016-17CSALE 2019-20
Contractual Appointment52%54%53%56%
Tenured/Tenure Track26%27%25%21%
Clinical Tenured/Clinical TT9%8%10%8%
Non-Adjunct At Will4%3%____
Administrator –w/ or w/out Faculty Title5%__

One third of all clinical faculty are on long-term, presumptively renewable contracts (or on short-term contracts leading to long-term renewable contracts), down slightly from the last two surveys, while 37% are in shorter term, less secure positions as staff attorneys, fellows, or at will administrative positions.

Contrary to worries about contraction of clinical faculty, at half the schools the number of total full-time clinical instructors has remained constant, while at 38% it has increased, and at 12% decreased. The main factors contributing to an increase were the addition of new law clinic or externship courses, while the main factors contributing to the decrease were the retirement/death or voluntary departure of a clinical faculty member without a replacement. Only 5% of schools attributed the decrease to layoffs, and only 5% attributed it to decreased student interest in law clinic or field placement courses.

Finally, this was the first CSALE survey after the implementation of the new six-credit experiential coursework requirement. In response to that new standard, approximately one third of schools made no changes to its courses. However, 43% of schools added new law clinic, field placement, or simulations courses, 30% restructured some previously non-experiential courses to become experiential, and 23% increased the number of slots available to students in existing clinic, field placement, or simulations courses. Ten percent of schools simply restructured an existing legal research and writing course to now be considered experiential. The new standard has had some impact on the first-year curriculum — one-fourth of schools now offer or require an experiential course. Yet, only seven schools offer or require a law clinic or field placement course as part of the first-year curriculum as 95% of first year experiential courses are simulations.

CSALE’s report on the 2019-20 survey will provide much more detail from the Master Survey on school-wide programs and policies and, from the Sub-Survey, data on specific types of courses and teacher status and demographics. If information is power, there is great power in CSALE data to guide decisions on clinical programs, courses, and faculty. But, that information is only as good as what CSALE can collect. If you received an invitation to the survey and have not yet filled it out, please add your answers to CSALE’s nationwide database.

CLEA Joins SALT in Urging Council to Suspend Accreditation Standard 316

Previously, we posted the Society of American Law Teacher’s statement calling for the Council on Legal Education to suspend law school Accreditation Standard 316 “in light of the COVID-19 disruptions to the 2020 bar exam nationwide. ”  (You may remember that ABA Standard 316 requires that “at least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates in a calendar year must have passed the bar exam within two years of their date of graduation.”)

Today, the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA)  joined SALT in urging the ABA Council on Legal Education to suspend 316 as the

only remedy that makes sense given that we cannot predict the ultimate impact of COVID-19.

CLEA’s letter submitted by Kendall L. Kerew, CLEA President, on behalf of the Board of Directors, and found here, notes how consistent this submission is with past submissions to the Council and with their Board of Directors April 21, 2020 statement on licensing for 2020 law graduates:

CLEA has long expressed concerns about Standard 316’s over-reliance on the high-stakes, timed bar examination and its negative impact on diversity in the legal profession. CLEA also has criticized the exam’s emphasis on test-taking skills and memorization of substantive knowledge over legal analysis, problem-solving, and lawyering skills, which are all essential to legal practice. 

Finally, CLEA, whose mission includes a commitment to “pursue and promote justice and diversity as core values of the legal profession,” writes that 

The ability of law students to prepare for and take the
bar exam, given serious virus-related disruptions, is greatly hindered and varies significantly, depending on location. In fact, growing data underscores that people of color face disproportionate illness and death from COVID-19.

The Council meets tomorrow May 15th to “conduct its accreditation business by video conference and will have a brief open session conference call on Friday, May 15, beginning at 3:30 p.m. CDT, to review and take action on the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure previously circulated for Notice and Comment.” 

Leaning into Uncertainty: Ensuring Quality Legal Education During Coronavirus – A Conference

On behalf of Susan L. Brooks,  Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, Drexel University

“I’m pleased to share information about a Roundtable Conference,  Leaning into Uncertainty: Ensuring Quality Legal Education During CoronavirusThe event, which will be held over two half-days (May 26 and 27) will be heavy on the sharing, lighter on the presentations.  Our sense is that there is much value in conversations, crowdsourcing and connection-building as we deal with similar challenges on different campuses. We think smaller breakout groups are an ideal venue for that.

The conference will feature six topical programs.  For each topic, we will have a 15 minute session with two presenters framing the issues, a 60 minute conversation in break-out groups, and a 15 to 30 minute return to share ideas. Our goal is broad participation, so we’re encouraging each school to send a small number of people to every program.  I hope many of you will attend some or all of the sessions.

***Please note that the session on Experiential Education will take place on Tuesday, May 26th from 4:15-5:45, and will include a wide range of topics related to varying sorts of clinics, externships, pro bono programs, and other experiential opportunities.

Feel free to forward this email to colleagues.  We are asking everyone to register by Wednesday May 20 via this link:


The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday May 26, 2020:

  • 12:30 EST –   Opening Plenary
  • 12:45 EST –   Roundtable 1: Beyond Zoom! Moving from Emergency Virtual Classrooms to a Rigorous, Engaging Online Experience
  • 2:30   EST –   Roundtable 2: Designing Curriculum and Programs in a World of Social Distancing: Sections, Schedules and Changing Circumstances
  • 4:15   EST –  Roundtable 3: Maintaining High Quality Experiential Learning Opportunities from a Distance

Wednesday May 27, 2020:

  • 12:30 EST –   Day 2 Plenary
  • 12:45 EST –   Roundtable 4: Sustaining a Sense of Place and Well Being for our Students
  • 2:30   EST –   Roundtable 5: Maintaining Morale and Community Among Faculty and Staff
  • 4:15   EST –   Roundtable 6: Maintaining Strategic Priorities and Institutional Health Through Crisis

I’d like to acknowledge the members of the conference planning committee who assisted us in shaping this event: Barry Currier (ABA Managing Director Emeritus), Ben Cooper (University of Mississippi), Darby Dickerson (UIC- John Marshall and AALS President), Melanie Leslie (Cardozo), Kim Mutcherson (Rutgers University),  Zahr Said (University of Washington), and Emily Scivoletto (UC Davis).

Please feel free to email me with any questions or suggestions at: susan.brooks@drexel.edu. “

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