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Update From the Managing Director: 2022-2023 Council Year in Review

       William E. Adams

William E. Adams

William E. Adams
Managing Director

It has been a busy year for the Council and much has been accomplished by it and its busy committees. This includes changes to the Standards, decisions on the long-discussed expansion of data collection, and approval of more experimental programs proposed by schools.

The Council approved a recommendation from the Questionnaire and Template Committee to expand its race, ethnicity, and gender identity demographic categories. The expanded categories will more accurately reflect the race and ethnicity of persons about which data is collected and reported. The Accreditation Project will also begin collecting demographic information about sexual orientation and persons with disabilities. The Council will review the information about the new categories the first year it is collected and decide if it wants to begin publishing the information in subsequent years.

The Council has also approved changes to its Distance-Education related standards, which amongst other things, will increase the allowable percentage of distance education credits required for the J.D. to fifty percent. Schools wanting to permit a larger percentage will need to apply for a substantive change to their program. The proposal also would eliminate the current ten-credit-hour cap during the first third of a student’s legal education program. These changes, along with some amendments clarifying other parts of the distance education standards, will go to the ABA House of Delegates at the ABA Annual Meeting in August.

The Council has also decided to send out for Notice and Comment a proposal to amend the Standards and Rules related to sanctions for noncompliance and public disclosure of Council decisions and accreditation status. The former would explain the hierarchy of sanctions and reclassify some sanctions as penalties. The latter would list the standards that require public notice when schools are out of compliance.

The Council has also decided to pause its proposal to amend Standards 501 and 503. This is the proposal that amends current admissions policies requirements which require that every JD applicant take a valid and reliable admissions test except for limited exceptions in Interpretation 503-3. The proposal was not concurred in by the ABA House of Delegates at the February 2023 Midyear Meeting. It has also incurred resistance by some law school deans. The Council will engage further with those opposing the proposal to consider whether modifications or further study are in order.

The Council is studying whether Standard 303(a)(3) should be amended to increase the number of required experiential learning credits. A survey has been sent to schools asking for their opinions. 

Law Schools continue to propose new programs that require Council acquiescence. The experience with distance education acquired during that pandemic has motivated more schools to seek substantive changes to increase the amount of distance education credits that their students can earn towards the JD. The Council has acquiesced in part-time hybrid distance education programs for the following schools this year:

  • University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Cleveland State University College of Law
  • Lincoln Memorial University School of Law

Three more schools have submitted applications for expanded distance education offerings, which will be reviewed during the next year.  Distance education programs weren’t the only new offerings considered by the Council this year. The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law was granted the right to open a branch campus in Sydney, Australia.

As the year comes to an end, it is also a bittersweet time to bid farewell to those Council members whose terms are ending. This year we say goodbye to departing Council members Craig Boise, Mary McQueen, Phyllis Thompson, and Law Student Division representative Andrew Crane. Further, Joan Howland will be leaving after serving for many years as Section Delegate in addition to service as Council member-at-large and Council Chair. All of these members have made important contributions to the Council and their wisdom and experience will be missed. I also express my appreciation for the stellar leadership provided by our Chair this year, Joe West. His calm eloquence and astute judgment steered us through the challenges posed to the Council this year. Finally, I again thank the office staff whose diligence, hard work and support make this job much, much easier than it could otherwise be.

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