April 01, 2016

Accreditation Q&A

We are introducing a new Syllabus column in which frequently asked questions about the ABA Standards and Rules for Approval of Law Schools are answered. If you have a question that you would like to submit for consideration, please send it to Mary McNulty, Syllabus editor, at mary.mcnulty@americanbar.org.

This month’s question addresses recent changes in the transfer of credits from an LL.M. program.

Q: How many credits earned in an LL.M. program can be counted toward graduation from a J.D. program at an ABA-approved law school?

A: Standard 505: Granting of J.D. Degree Credit for Prior Law Study, which was adopted following the 2008-2014 Comprehensive Review of the Standards, consolidates in one Standard all the circumstances that lead to the granting of J.D. degree credit for prior law study. It incorporated and revised material appearing in former Standards 506 (Applicants from Law Schools not Approved by the ABA) and 507 (Applicants from Foreign Law Schools), and Interpretation 304-7 regarding transfer of credits earned in an LL.M. program into to a J.D. program.

Under previous practice, some law schools allowed a student who transfers into a J.D. program from an LL.M. program to receive up to one-third of the credits required for graduation from the law school outside the United States and to receive additional credits from the LL.M. program under former Interpretation 304-7. New Standard 505 limits the total number of credits in such a situation to one-third of the credits required for graduation. The new Standard also limits the awarding of credit for LL.M. programs offered by the law school where the J.D. degree will be earned.

New Standard 505 also includes a provision that was implied but not explicitly stated in the previous Standards that a law school may accept credit for courses completed at another law school approved by the Council if the courses were undertaken as a J.D. degree student. There is no limit in the Standard on the number of credits that may be accepted.

The new Standard further clarifies that in all instances where a law school accepts credit for prior law study, the law school must assure that the student successfully satisfies all of the requirements of Standard 311 and meets all of the law school’s requirements for the awarding of the J.D. degree.