William E. Adams
Law Schools continue to provide increased distance education due to the continued health and safety threats posed by the COVID-19 virus. The office has released an application for the summer and fall to permit them to continue to offer online education in excess of our current limits should the health and safety risks linger. As the future of the pandemic and vaccine distribution remains uncertain, the Council will discuss what extensions are in order so that schools can do necessary planning for the summer and fall.
The Standards Review Committee is working on the items mentioned in my last column. Those include:
- Standards related to its goals involving lawyer well-being and professional responsibility; equity, diversity, and inclusion, including bias, cultural competency, and concrete actions; and distance education.
- Unsettled agenda items from the past few years, such as Standard 501 regarding 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 regarding student loan data including what should be collected and published.
- Other Standards and Rules that may need amending, which are listed in the SRS report posted on the Section’s website.
Proposed amendments on some of these issues will be released for Notice and Comment at the February Council meeting while others will be released at the May meeting.
The Council approved the amendments to Rule 29 on Teach-Out Plans to comply with new federal Department of Education regulations. The amendments will now go to the ABA House of Delegates at the ABA Midyear Meeting. If it concurs, they will become effective at the end of that meeting.
The Council held virtual roundtables on the topics of distance education, site visits, and assessment/learning outcomes on January 29. A summary of the comments will be posted on the Section website. Additional comments may be sent to the office regarding these topics and will be shared with the Council.
Virtual site inspections were conducted in the fall and will continue in the spring. The staff have discussed the experience with chairs of those inspections and met virtually with the spring chairs to share insights and tips from the fall chairs. Site and fact-finding visits will continue to be conducted virtually until it is safe to resume in-person visits. The Council will also consider whether site visits should be conducted virtually as a whole or in part in the future, depending upon the experience this year.
As everyone is aware, bar exam administration extended into late fall this year resulting in later reporting of bar passage results than normal. As a result, the deadline for reporting bar passage results to the Section has been moved to March 31 this year.
As the pandemic continues to pose unprecedented challenges to law schools and society as a whole, we continue to assess how the enforcement of the Standards are impacted by it. Some permanent modifications such as changing our site visit process as discussed above may result from this experience. I remain impressed by the flexibility and creativity demonstrated by the schools and their continued willingness to adapt and help each other as they test different technologies and approaches to delivering legal education in the best manner possible in this new environment.
I thank our staff who have been confronted with more questions and problems than usual and have worked diligently to assist. I am also grateful to Chair Scott Bales and Chair-Elect Leo Martinez for their assistance to me in responding to the new problems posed by this pandemic. As we continue to confront the problems posed by the pandemic and hopefully move past it, I feel confident that they and the rest of the Council will continue to provide that wise counsel.