June 03, 2019

MONTH-IN-BRIEF: Legal Opinions & Ethics

Keith Fisher, Christina Houston

Professional Responsibility

Tougher Bar Passage Requirements for Accreditation Standards

By Keith R. Fisher

Neither years of vigorous opposition nor negative votes on two occasions from the House of Delegates stopped the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar from approving an amendment to one of the law school accreditation requirements, Standard 316. The revisions require that 75% of law graduates who sit for the bar exam pass within 2 years. Opponents of the change have argued that it will have a disproportionate impact on law students from underserved communities. Effective immediately, the amendment will pose challenges for law schools whose 2017 graduates fail to meet this standard when the ABA publishes two-year bar passage data in February 2020; those law schools will then have two years to come into compliance. 

The change was prompted by 2016 criticism from the U.S. Department of Education about rising student debt and the phenomenon of increased enrollment of students who were flunking the bar. Based on data from 2016 bar passage, 23 law schools would be at risk for losing accreditation, but the marketplace has already acted for three of them–Arizona Summit, Valparaiso, and Whittier–which are closing.

Keith Fisher

Principal Consultent and Senior Counsel, National Center for State Courts

An honors graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown University Law Center, Keith Fisher joined the National Center for State Courts in 2015 as Principal Consultant and Senior Counsel for Domestic and International Court Initiatives.  He is an experienced lawyer and law professor and is a nationally known expert on domestic and international financial services regulation and legal and judicial ethics.  Recent speaking engagements on domestic and international  ethics issues include the Center for Judicial Ethics National Judicial College, the International Conference on Court Excellence in Singapore, the Professional Responsibility Training Session for Immigration Judges, an American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce Symposium on Improving the Greek Court System, the Magistrature de Quebec’s Colloque soulignant les 40 ans du Conseil de la magistrature, the U.N.’s Global Judicial Integrity Network conference on social media in Vienna, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s conference on judicial ethics and social media..  He also serves on the Board of Editors for UNESCO publications on judicial bioethics.

Christina Houston

Counsel, DLA Piper

Christina’s practice focuses on legal opinions, LLCs, partnerships, trusts and corporations and general commercial transactions. Christina is a member of the Partnership and Limited Liability Company Committee of the Corporation Law Section of the Delaware State Bar Association, which is responsible for annually reviewing and updating Delaware’s partnership and LLC statutes. Christina also is actively involved in the Legal Opinions Committee of the American Bar Association Business Law Section, the Committee on LLCs, Partnerships and Unincorporated Business Associations and the Business Law Basics Committee of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association. She is the current Chair of the Opinion Issues in LLCs Subcommittee. Christina is a member of the TriBar Opinion Committee.