William E. Adams
Law Schools have returned in the Fall facing the uncertainties posed by the challenges of the COVID-19 virus. As the future of the pandemic remains uncertain, the Council and schools will continue to review the situation as it evolves. At its August meeting, the Council approved the plans submitted by all of the schools for the mode of instruction for this academic term and, for some schools, for the entire academic year. Schools continue to share on our listservs how they are adjusting policies and practices as they offer online and hybrid classes. They continue to be innovative in striving to assist their students. Recent conversations have included discussions of the pros and cons of cancelling spring break.
The Council took a number of actions at its August meeting, which was conducted virtually. Some of these items include:
- Approving priorities for the coming fiscal year that begins September 1. The goals include looking at issues involving lawyer well-being and professional responsibility; equity, diversity and inclusion, including bias, cultural competency, and concrete actions; and distance education.
- Reviewing unsettled agenda items from the past few years, such as Standard 501 in regard to the types of evidence a law school may proffer to demonstrate its sound admissions policies; Standard 503’s requirement for a valid and reliable admissions test for applicants; and Standard 507 regarding its objectives in regard to student loan data including what should be collected and published.
- Reviewing other Standards and Rules that may need amending, which are listed in the SRS report posted on the Section’s website.
- Approving amendments to Rule 2 giving the Council authority to provide temporary relief from identified Standards during emergencies.
The Council held a special meeting in September to recommend amendments to Rule 29 on Teach-Out Plans to comply with new federal Department of Education regulations. The amendments were put out for Notice and Comment. The Notice concerning these amendments is also posted on the website.
The Council also invited groups and others interested in legal education to virtual roundtables in October to discuss the above priority issues as well as issues concerning transparency and admissions tests. A summary of the comments received have been posted on the Section’s website. I believe that interesting and useful conversations occurred, and the Council received useful input on these issues. I hope that we will have more of these events in the future. I am also hopeful that at some point in the not-too-distant future we can hold them in person so that we can allot more time for the discussions.
The first virtual site inspections have started to be conducted. The staff will discuss the experience with chairs of those inspections and provide additional direction and tips as appropriate to chairs and schools being inspected in the Spring. After the Spring visits conclude, the staff will analyze whether we should recommend to the Council that using the virtual process, at least in part, should be considered in the future.
As the safety of travel remains challenging, the Council will have another virtual meeting in November. The agenda for the meeting will be posted on the website.
Schools have just finished completing their Annual Questionnaires. The office will review the data and attempt to catch data entry errors. In my next column, I will review the enrollment data and what it indicates as to trends and how they may have been impacted by the virus.
As the pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to law schools and society as a whole, it has presented the office with questions that require us to ponder how the Standards apply to situations not previously encountered. I thank our staff for continuing to strive to address those questions. I am also particularly grateful to Immediate Past Chair Diane Bosse and current Chair Scott Bales for their assistance to me as I assumed my new role in the Spring. They were always patient and provided wise advice on a nearly daily basis through the Spring and Summer. Scott, along with Chair-Elect Leo Martinez, continue to assist me through the Fall. As we continue to confront new questions, I feel confident that they and the rest of the Council will assist the office to address ongoing issues.