By KAREEM AREF
This year, the ABA Law Student Division is raising the bar and working toward the law student dream.
At the 2016 ABA Annual meeting in August, LSD leaders created a plan to make strides in five essential policy areas for law students across the nation. Coined the DREAM Initiative, this plan focuses on ensuring progress in the areas of Diversity, developing Real-world skills, ad-dressing the cost of Education, building Accountability, and de-stigmatizing and addressing Mental health issues in law school and the legal profession.
It’s widely known that the legal profession is one of the least diverse profession in the nation. In today’s world, this is completely unacceptable. We as law students need to begin to build a more diverse law student population to create a more diverse legal profession.
The advantages of diversity in the profession are unquestionable. Increased diversity means a wider breadth of experiences and analysis and the ability to take huge steps toward creating a more comprehensive legal system on a foundation of equity for all peoples.
To do that, we’ll be looking at policy initiatives in the state and federal legislatures, as well as working with affinity bar organizations to assemble a comprehensive plan to build a more diverse legal profession.
Unfortunately, today’s law graduates are feeling more and more unprepared for the legal profession. The system of legal education has been a very academic and textbook-based course of work throughout its history.
However, today students want to be prepared for their profession when they graduate rather than living out the his-toric belief that law school teaches you to think like a law-yer, while your first job teaches you how to be a lawyer.
This initiative will engage students and attempt to build clinical programs and practical training across legal education to better prepare students for the legal profession while they’re in law school.
The cost of education
With student debt having surpassed credit card debt as the nation’s largest source of debt, the cost of education is long overdue for being addressed. Law students often feel the biggest brunt of the student loan debt burden as the cost of legal education continues to increase each year.
As such, students are working to address these costs by increasing financial literacy, creating a comprehensive list of financial aid programs available to students, and attempting to push legislation that will lower the cost of education.
It’s a weird dynamic that with all the organizations boasting about serving law stu-dents, students seldom have much, if any, input in how these groups are run.
This prong of the plan will seek to build that accountability. It has already begun as the LSD Assembly passed an initiative to put a student member on the ABA president’s selection committee. We’ll seek to continue pushing for accountability and the engagement of law students in organizations that serve them to ensure that entities boasting that they serve students truly do.
Under the leadership of the FUN Committee, the shorthand name for Facing Unacceptable Norms of Law School, student are becoming engaged in addressing the norms in law school that lead to mental-health issues.
This initiative will seek to de-stigmatize mental health and ensure that students are receiving the support they need to succeed and deal with the mental health issues that arise in law school. Additionally, we’ll be seeking to push legislators and law schools alike to increase these services for law students across the nation.
Each initiative is engaging students through the use of electronic meetings and committees law students can join to engage directly in the planning of the campaigns and to build momentum toward securing victories that will truly make law school into the DREAM so many expect it to be.