AALS on ABA Standards Review

In  letter dated, March 28, 2011, the AALS has questioned the process by which the ABA Section of Legal Education, and  the Standards Review Committee, are revising the ABA Standards.  As Paul Caron put it on TaxProf, “AALS Goes to War Over ABA’s Proposed Accreditation Standards Changes.”  That is putting it gently.  The AALS suggests that

[t]he SRC appears to be involved in a thought experiment that asks whether its members could imagine the existence of a school that would produce ethical, competent entry-level lawyers if the standards subtracted any particular element of the current standards…..

Id. at 2 (emphasis added).  The AALS argues that

[t]he vision animating the current standards proposals is not entirely clear, and the SRC has never invited or entertained a conversation about the broader vision of legal education advanced by its interlocking set of proposed changes. But one thing is clear: all constituencies need opportunities to discuss the overall vision behind and the combined effect of the proposed radical changes to those standards, standards that have been relied on by all accredited schools, state Supreme Courts, and the public that depends on the quality of the bar in life-changing matters.

Id. at 2.  The AALS letter concludes by asking the Council and the SRC to:

1. Reject the radical proposed changes to the role of the faculty, and other changes to the standards that would weaken, rather than strengthen, legal education.

2. Initiate a process for the specific purpose of allowing all important constituencies to understand and debate the vision animating the current proposals and their combined effect on legal education.

3. Undertake or commission an independent, fact-based study of the actual cost drivers in legal education, and their relationship with the accreditation process.

Id. at 10.

Hat tip to Paul Caron and to Mary Lynch (Best Practices for Legal Education).

posted by Gary Rosin

Update:  National Law Journal has an article, available on Law.Com,  AALS urges delay in debate over law school cccreditation standards that discusses the AALS letter. The article quotes Donald Polden, Chair of the Standards Review Committee:

“[A]fter 2 1/2 years of working on the comprehensive review in a highly transparent manner, I have some definite thoughts about the AALS’ recent request,” ….

* * *

“We would argue that we’ve had that public debate,” …

 The article said that Hulett Askew, the Consultant onf Legal Education indicated that

Before the committee started drafting proposals, it agreed in 2009 upon a set of principles and fundamental goals. They include assuring education quality, advancing the core mission of legal education, accountability for law schools, clarity and precision in the standards, and assessing program quality and student learning.

The AALS did not object or comment on those goals when they were established, Askew said.

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