The American Bar Association and at least 36 law schools will announce an ambitious tuition refund initiative on Monday to ease law student debt and to help prop up an ailing attorney job market, Bitter Lawyer has learned.
The plan—which reportedly includes two phases known informally as “clunk” and “cull”—involves issuing tuition refunds of up to two years to both current law students as well as unemployed graduates from participating schools.
In the “cull” phase, expected to begin as early as May 15, participating law schools will request voluntary “drops” from their 1L and 2L classes, in return for which the schools will issue full tuition refunds plus an unspecified “life adjustment stipend.” The amount of the stipend will depend on a number of factors, including geography, prior work experience, and family demographics.
The “clunk” phase is expected to begin in September and will provide up to two years of full tuition refunds to recent law grads who have not secured “full employment” in the legal profession within 23 months of graduation. Details of what is meant by “full employment,” however, have not yet been released, nor is it known how far back the plan will look. Authorities close to the ABA said that the plan will likely include only the classes of 2010 and 2011.
The plan is being paid through a special ABA membership fund and from select tuition pools of the 36 participating law schools. The list of schools has not yet been announced but is expected to include at least five “top tier” schools as well as dozens of lower-tier schools, some of which have been the recent target of class-action fraud lawsuits.
Bitter Lawyer has no further details of the plan.