Honorable Scott Bales
Chief Justice (Retired)
Arizona Supreme Court
2020-2021 Council Chair
The Council’s May meeting fittingly had a sense of fresh beginnings. After the past year’s many challenges, we had encouraging news on several fronts. Bar passage rates for 2020 were a bit higher than the year before, even though test-takers and jurisdictions had to adapt to revised schedules and formats. Employment data for the class of 2020 remained strong, with 77.4% of graduates from ABA-accredited schools employed in full-time, long term Bar Passage Required or J.D. Advantage jobs within about ten months of graduation. And the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), reported that the number of law school applicants has increased this year by 19.2%, including more applications from women and people of color.
Along with these developments, law schools across the nation have announced plans to resume in-person classes by at least next semester. Similarly, the Council hopes that by this fall it can again conduct its regular meetings in person. Of course, for both law schools and the Council, returning to a more “usual” way of operating does not mean overlooking the lessons and opportunities posed by recent experience.
At its May meeting, the Council approved for notice and comment several revisions to the Law School Accreditation Standards. These proposed changes address important topics, including strengthening the Standards related to non-discrimination and diversity (Standards 205 and 206); adding new curriculum requirements related to bias, cross-cultural competency and racism and to the development of a professional identify (Standard 303); and affording law students information about financial aid and student loans and about well-being resources (Standards 507 and 508). The proposals reflect extensive work by the Council’s Standards Committee, ably led by Pam Lysaght, and broad input that included on-line roundtables attended by interested persons and groups.
After the Council receives written comments, it will decide on further action at its August meeting. Any revisions approved by the Council will not become effective until 2022, as they must first be submitted to the House of Delegates at its meeting next year.
The announced revisions illustrate how the Council and the Section staff have worked this past year not only to help law schools respond to the immediate crisis posed by the pandemic, but also to help the Standards evolve to better serve their goals. Even as law students and law schools return to something approaching “normalcy” over the coming months, the legal profession and legal education must still confront - and should try to thoughtfully adapt to - ongoing changes in technology, the economy, and society more broadly. That end should be served by the Council’s on-going review of the Standards.
The May meeting was my last as Chair. While my next (and final) column will talk more about people leaving or joining the Council, I want to congratulate Anders Miller, who has served with us this year as the member from the Law Student Division, on his law school graduation, and to thank our Section members for their tremendous efforts supporting legal education and the work of the Council.