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Entries filed under 'Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar'

    ABA legal education accreditor prepares for change in admissions standards

    August 3, 2018 8:30 PM by glynnj

    In anticipation of a major change in the standard for testing of prospective law students, the governing body of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar wrestled on Friday with how to collect and report some of the data required of the nation’s 204 ABA-approved law schools.

    Early next week at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, the ABA House of Delegates is expected to consider proposed revisions to the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. The Council, the ABA’s independent arm for law school accreditation, discussed Friday a “guidance memo” to be sent to schools if the House concurs with the changes but reached no decisions on some of its details.

    Altogether, there are five legal education resolutions before the House. For law schools, the most significant proposed change affects the standard requiring a “valid and reliable test” for prospective law students.

    Under the change, law schools would no longer be required to collect scores for a test, such as the LSAT, although they would have to report scores for those students who take tests. Language in support of the new standard would establish that a school whose admissions policy and practices are called into question is presumptively out of compliance with the standards if it does not require a valid and reliable admissions test as part of its admission policy.

    The change comes in the wake of around two dozen schools since 2016 announcing they will accept the GRE test in addition to the LSAT. Under ABA rules, the House can either concur with the recommended changes or send them back to the Council with or without a recommendation. The Council must then resend any changes back to the House for re-consideration, but the final decision rests with the Council.

    At its Friday public session, Andrea Sinner, director of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Education, said that the presidential initiative of outgoing ABA President Hilarie Bass would be continued by her successor Bob Carlson. Sinner reported the commission has received funding from AccessLex, a nonprofit that supports legal education, to empirically study the impact of the bar exam for a multi-year period.

    In other reports discussed Friday:

    • Representatives from the Association of American Law Schools said a September release was planned for the study, “Before the JD.” More than 22,000 undergraduate and first-year law students participated in the survey, which focused on the decision to go to law schools, among other areas.

    • Representatives from the National Association of Law Placement outlined new information released this week that showed median salaries for law school graduates in the class of 2017 was $70,000, up $5,000 from the previous class. Also, average salaries, jumped from $90,305 for the class of 2016, to $95,320 for the class of 2017, and large law firms with more than 500 lawyers boosted hiring, with starting salaries of $180,000 becoming more prevalent. Still the news was not all good. Jim Leipold, NALP executive director, said there remains a challenge of recruiting lawyers for practices in small and rural areas.

    • Kellye Testy, chief executive of the Law School Admissions Council, said that summer test takers of the LSAT were up 25 percent from a year ago, and that the quality of the applicant pool for law schools was improving “both in diversity and quality.”

    • Representatives of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, a coalition of groups inside and outside the ABA, discussed their report of a year ago of 44 recommendations to improve lawyer and law student mental health and well-being. They urged the Council to make this a priority among law schools.

     

    Council adopts proposal to make standardized test optional for law schools

    May 14, 2018 2:07 PM by glynnj

    The requirement that American Bar Association-approved law schools mandate that 1L applicants submit a standardized law school admissions test as part of their admissions application would become optional under changes adopted by Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at its meeting on May 11 in Washington, D.C.

    The passage followed a recommendation made last month by the Council’s Standards Review Committee (SRC), which had considered the particular matter for months and the general question of the role of an admissions test in the standards for several years. The proposal had been the subject of a public hearing in April, and the SRC and the Council had received many written comments on the matter.

    The next step for the standardized test recommendation – and others approved May 11 -- would be review of the matter by the ABA House of Delegates, which meets in early August in Chicago.

    The changes to Standards 501 and 503 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools would eliminate the requirement of a “valid and reliable test” as part of a law school’s admissions process. Debate over what constitutes such a test and its role in the standards has been growing for several years since some law schools were granted variances to explore the use of nontraditional tests under certain, limited conditions.

    These conditions are set out in two interpretations to the current Standard 503. Subsequently, in February 2016, the University of Arizona College of Law, based on a study done with the Education Testing Service (ETS), announced it had concluded that ETS’s Graduate Record Exam (GRE) was a valid and reliable law school admissions test that it could require in lieu of the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) under Interpretation 503-1. More than 15 law schools have concluded that the GRE, in addition to the LSAT, is a valid and reliable test for their programs.

    Developed and administered by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), the LSAT has been the test used by schools for more than a half century. Highly predictive of student success in the 1L year and beyond, law schools have relied on the LSAT in their admissions processes. Additionally, the LSAC has developed other services and programs on which law schools have relied, making the LSAC one of the key national legal education organizations.

    Significantly, the Council also adopted a new interpretation recommend by the SRC – viewed as an explainer – that would establish a “rebuttable presumption” that recognizes the centrality of a valid and reliable admissions test in law schools’ admissions policies and practices. It provides that a school whose admissions policy and process were called into question by the Council would presumptively be out of compliance with the revised Standard 501 if it did not include a valid and reliable admissions test as part of its policy. Standard 501 states that a school must “maintain sound admission policies and practices consistent with the standards, its mission and the objectives of its program of legal education,” and that it “shall only admit applicants who appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.”

    Referring to the current approach of the standards for a test, Robert Glidden, a public member of the Council and former university president and provost who served on the Accreditation Committee, summed up the thoughts of many on the Council when he said, “It’s just too messy.”

    Following the meeting, Barry Currier, managing director of ABA Accreditation and Legal Education, said he expected law schools to continue relying on an admissions test in their admissions policies, and he expected that, for now, schools would primarily rely on the LSAT.

    “The use of tests other than the LSAT, including the GRE, may add to the group of individuals who wish to study law, and that might be a positive development,” Currier said. Further, he noted that the removal of the requirement of a test opens opportunities for innovation in how law schools might attract individuals to law study who can contribute to the ongoing challenges of diversifying the profession, increasing access to justice and accelerating other needed reforms in the legal profession.

    “While there are admissions tests aimed at other professions which are taken by all or most of the applicants to those professional schools, law is the only profession that requires such a test in its accreditation standards,” Currier said. “Given the history and utility of the LSAT and the role the LSAC has played as an important organization within legal education beyond the test itself, the use of other tests, or the option of no test at all, are likely to be supplemental to, and not a replacement for, the LSAT in legal education generally.”

    Under the procedures of the Council, the ABA House of Delegates can concur with the recommendation, in which case the changes will be effective at the adjournment of the House’s meeting in August, or the House can reject the proposal and return it to the Council. The Council may then return the proposal for a second consideration. If the House again does not concur, the Council may then reaffirm the action that it took to approve the standard and it will become effective. Alternatively, the Council may choose to reconsider its action. In either event, the final decision for this and any standard rests with the Council.

    In other public business, the Council approved SRC recommendations on the agenda that included:

    • New language for Standards 205 and 206, which deal with nondiscrimination and diversity and inclusion, that adds “gender identity” to the list of characteristics that are covered by those provisions. Further, the new language, consistent with requests to the SRC from several religiously affiliated law schools, notes that the standard does not require a religiously affiliated law school to act inconsistently with the essential elements of its religious values and beliefs provided that the actions are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    • Changes in Standard 303 and Standard 304 covering simulation, clinic and field placement. Essentially, the change re-inserts language that earlier had been proposed to be deleted. The standard now includes language that an experiential course be “primarily experiential in nature,” and that “direct supervision of the student’s performance by the faculty member” be inserted both for simulation and clinic courses and for field placements.

    • Revisions for Standard 306 that would allow law schools to provide one-third of its required credits be taught online, including up to 10 credits in the 1L program. The current rule limits the number of such credits to 15. ABA standards now require at least 83 credit hours for graduation although most schools require more, with the usual range being between 86 and 90 credits. As adopted, the revised standard would effectively raise the number of credits for distance learning to at least 28 credit hours and, in many cases, 30 credit hours.

    • A reworking of Standard 601, which deletes the requirement of a written assessment for the library during the reaccreditation process. Some law librarians had requested the change, but a written report is not required now for other nonacademic areas of the law school.


    The Council also approved a restructuring plan, with bylaw and standards and rules changes, that will eliminate the SRC and the Council’s Accreditation Committee, returning the work of the ABA law school accreditation process to the Council itself.

    The intent of these charges is improvement of the effectiveness and the efficiency of the process. The bylaw changes need approval of the ABA Board of Governors and the section membership, which will be voted on at the section’s business meeting at the ABA Annual Meeting in August.

    The House of Delegates will be asked to concur in these changes at its meeting in August. The restructuring plan includes moving the normal cycle for comprehensive review of a law school program from 7 to 10 years and increasing the use of the interim monitoring process, which tracks school performance each year and provides increased oversight of schools about which the Council may have concerns.

     

    ABA legal education section releases employment data for graduating law class of 2017

    April 20, 2018 11:36 AM by glynnj

    CHICAGO, April 20, 2018 – Employment data for the graduating law class of 2017 as reported by American Bar Association-approved law schools to the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is now publicly available.  

    The aggregate national data on law graduate employment outcome for the class of 2017 and individual schools' post-graduate employment figures can be found online. An online table also provides select national side-by-side comparisons between the classes of 2017 and 2016.

    The aggregated school data shows that 75.3 percent of the 2017 graduates of the 204 law schools approved by the ABA to offer the J.D. degree were employed in full-time long-term Bar Passage Required or J.D. Advantage jobs roughly 10 months after graduation. That compares to 72.6 percent of the graduates reporting similar full-time long-term jobs last year. The higher percentage of students so employed, however, results from an approximately 6 percent decrease in the size of the graduating class. The actual number of full-time long-term Bar Passage Required or J.D. Advantage jobs decreased by 630, or -2.34 percent year over year, going from 26,923 in 2016 to 26,293 in 2017.

    The ABA's accrediting body, under Standard 509 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, requires schools to report to the ABA and publicly disclose varied information, including employment outcomes. Employment and other statistics are posted to the Section of Legal Education statistics website.

    The council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and its accreditation committee are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accrediting agency for programs leading to the J.D. The section’s 14,000 members strive to improve legal education and lawyer licensing by fostering cooperation among legal educators, practitioners and judges through workshops, conferences and publications. The section also studies and makes recommendations for the improvement of the bar admission process, and the section and its governing council operate for accreditation purposes as independent arms of the ABA.

    ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the media and public find dependable answers and explanations to legal questions and issues. Go to www.abalegalfactcheck.com and follow us on Twitter @ABAFactCheck.

    With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement on line. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews

     

    SRC moves proposal ahead to make standardized test optional for law schools

    April 16, 2018 12:17 PM by glynnj

    The requirement that American Bar Association-approved law schools mandate applicants to submit a standardized law school admissions test as part of their admissions application would become optional under comments offered by the Standards Review Committee (SRC) of the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at its meeting on April 13.

    The matter now goes to the Council, which meets May 11 in Washington, D.C. If the Council approves the changes for Standards 501 and 503 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, the earliest they could go before the ABA House of Delegates for its concurrence would be August.

    The discussion of what to do with the ABA requirement for a “valid and reliable test” for most applicants for ABA-approved law schools has been growing for several years since some law schools were granted variances to explore the use of other tests under certain conditions. In addition, the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona became the first school in February 2016 without a variance to announce that it would accept the GRE for incoming law students.

    For more than a half century, the LSAT, administered by the Law School Admissions Council, was the test used by schools, although it has never formally been assessed as “valid and reliable” by the Council. Rather, schools had their own experiences with the test validated each year directly by the LSAC. Since the Arizona decision, a number of other law schools, including Harvard and Northwestern, have announced they would accept the GRE for law-school applicants.

    The recommended change came during a discussion at the SRC’s all-day meeting. One day earlier at a public hearing, both the LSAC and the Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, touted the value of a standardized test in the law school admissions process and explained why their tests were “valid and reliable.” Maureen O’Rourke, council chair and dean of Boston University School of Law, acknowledged during the April 13 meeting that “the current situation is not tenable, and we can’t go on (without the Council addressing it).”

    The SRC saw no reason for the Council to change its mind about the proposal to remove the requirement of an admissions test from the Standards that were circulated earlier for notice and comment. But it did prepare an interpretation – viewed as an explainer – that would establish a “rebuttal presumption” that the school was out of compliance to Standard 501 if its admissions policy and process were called into question and the school did not require such a test. Standard 501 states that a school must “maintain sound admission policies and practices consistent with the Standards, its mission and the objectives of its program of legal education.”

    As proposed by the draft circulated by the Council for comment, Standard 503, which requires a test, would be eliminated altogether and Standard 501 would be strengthened and would include the new explainer.

    Under the procedures of the Council, the ABA House of Delegates can concur with the recommendation or return it with or without recommendation. The Council can then send it back to the House again for concurrence. The final decision for this and any standard rests with the Council, however.

    Barry Currier, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education, and others at the meeting agreed that it was likely that law schools would continue to require an admissions test score from applicants, even if the formal requirement that they do so was removed. Removing the requirement, proponents of the change argue, will open opportunities for law schools to innovate with respect to putting together an entering class that serves well the program and missions of schools.

    The SRC considered a number of other proposals, and their actions included:

    • Approving new language for Standard 205 that covers nondiscrimination and equality of opportunity. The new language, consistent with requests from several religious-affiliated law schools, notes that the standard does not require a religiously affiliated law school to act inconsistently with the essential elements of its religious values and beliefs provided that the actions are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A proposal for changes to the “Diversity and Inclusion” Standard 206 was tabled.

    • Recommending no changes to the proposed reworking of Standard 601, which would delete the written assessment for the library during the reaccreditation process. Some law librarians had requested the change, but a written report is not required now for other nonacademic areas of the law school.


    Currier also gave a report on the reorganization of the Council, which also would need House concurrence. Under the approach, the work of the SRC and the Council’s Accreditation Committee would be folded into the Council to save money and accelerate the process on a range of matters. Currier said he outlined the reorganization recently to a group of deans at an American Association of Law Schools meeting, and it generated favorable response, in part because reaccreditation would occur every 10 years rather than seven.

    For additional information on the April 12 SRC public hearing, see the News and Announcements feature on the right-hand side of the section's web page.

     

    ABA Section of Legal Education releases comprehensive report on bar passage data

    March 22, 2018 9:09 AM by glynnj

    CHICAGO, March 22, 2018 —The Managing Director’s Office of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar released today a comprehensive set of data on bar passage outcomes for ABA-approved law schools, showing that in the aggregate nearly 9 of 10 law graduates in 2015 who took the bar exam passed it within two years of graduation.

    While the first-time bar passage outcomes have been reported in the past on a school-by-school basis, this report represents the first time the section has released both first-time and ultimate outcomes in this form. The spreadsheets are available on the section’s webpage under Legal Education Statistics.

    “This information is being made public, aggregately, as a matter of consumer information under ABA Standard 509,” said Barry Currier, the section’s managing director. “This report is not a compliance report for ABA Standard 316, which sets the standard for bar passage. That is a separate and distinct matter. But these reports provide important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law school and for others with an interest in legal education.”

    The report shows that while results vary among the schools, 87.83 percent of those who graduated from law school in 2015 who sat for a bar exam passed it within two years of graduation — whether on their first or a subsequent attempt. Aggregate first-time pass rates for the classes of 2016 and 2017 were 74.3 percent and 77.2 percent, respectively. As the 2015 ultimate results suggest, those first-time pass rates will likely increase in subsequent administrations of the exam.

    The new report is a result of a change by the section’s council, which is its governing body and national accreditor of law schools, removing bar passage information from law schools’ Standard 509 Consumer Information Reports published in the fall. Instead, the council required law schools to complete a separate report, filed in February, on bar passage outcomes. Also, schools were asked for the first time to report ultimate bar pass data (this time for calendar year 2015 graduates who sat for a bar exam within two years of completing law school). The council expects to continue this reporting going forward, and next year will report on the two-year ultimate bar exam outcomes for 2016 graduates.

    Currier explained that the change by the council “allows for more current information to be collected and reported,” which should be particularly helpful for prospective law students in the process of choosing schools. “It also gives us a snapshot of how law graduates are doing over a two-year span at each school,” Currier added. Further, he noted, the data demonstrates that law school graduates overwhelmingly sit for the bar immediately or soon after graduation.

    As part of the changes made by the council, law schools are required to make reasonable efforts to report on bar exam outcomes for all graduates in both the ultimate and first-time taker categories. Previously, bar exam reports were sufficient for public reporting purposes if they reported on 70 percent or more of a graduating class.

    “The council appreciates the work that law schools did to gather and report more complete bar passage data from their graduates,” Currier added.

    ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the media and public find dependable answers and explanations to legal questions and issues. Go to www.abalegalfactcheck.com and follow us on twitter @ABAFactCheck.

    With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

     

    ABA accreditor for law schools recommends expanding distance learning opportunities

    February 12, 2018 12:12 PM by glynnj

    The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the American Bar Association’s accreditor of law schools, is proposing a new rule for distance education that would nearly double the number of credits law students can earn in distance learning courses before graduating.

    Under the proposal, Standard 306, which concerns distance learning allowed in J.D. programs, would change from an absolute number to a percentage of whatever credits a law school requires for graduation. If adopted, law schools could allow one-third of its required credits be taught online. The current rule limits the number of such credits to 15.

    ABA standards now require at least 83 credit hours for graduation although most schools require more, with the usual range being between 86 and 90 credits. As proposed, the revised standard would effectively raise the number of credits for distance learning to at least 28 credit hours and, in many cases, 30 credit hours. Those courses would continue to be subject to other requirements of the standards.

    In addition, the proposal would change the current standard’s prohibition on distance learning courses in the first year and allow a school to include up to 10 credits of online courses in the required 1L curriculum.

    The proposal would retain the current provision that a course does not become a distance learning course for counting purposes unless more than one-third of the work in the course is done online. Law schools could still be granted variances for more extensive online learning. Currently, three law schools have been granted variances for experimental distance learning programs – Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Southwestern Law School and, during the closed session of this council meeting, Syracuse University College of Law. To date, only Mitchell Hamline has enrolled students in its program.

    The council approved the plan at its meeting in San Antonio, Texas, on Feb. 9, and put revised Standard 306 out for Notice and Comment. This and other proposed changes to ABA legal education standards will be the subject of a public hearing April 12 in Washington, D.C. The council then meets in May in Washington and could finalize proposed changes. The final proposal would then go to the ABA House of Delegates for its concurrence in August

    Pamela Lysaght, chair of the council’s Standards Review Committee, which recommended the online learning change, said the revision would “provide schools more flexibility.”

    The council also approved several other measures, including keeping the current form, with minor modifications, of how it reports employment outcomes for the nation’s 204 ABA-accredited law schools. This is considered important for prospective students concerned about employment opportunities after graduation, particularly at a time of high law school debt. AccessLex Institute, a nonprofit organization that studies legal education, pegs the average debt faced by a new law graduate at about $100,000 for public law schools and above $125,000 for private schools.

    The form, one of four options considered by the council, leaves intact how law schools now report employment data of their past graduating class – 10 months after graduation. This includes law-school funded jobs, which will be separately reported.

    In other matters the council:

    • Approved new language for Rule 53, one of several rules that cover confidentiality of the accreditation process. The revised changes will also be posted for Notice and Comment, with the intention of sending the changes to the ABA House of Delegates at the ABA Annual Meeting in August, should the council finally approve the changes at its meeting in May.

    • Received an update from council chair-elect Jeff Lewis, dean emeritus and professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, and Managing Director Barry Currier regarding proposed changes in the structure of the council’s operations, principally to streamline the work of the council and to realize substantial cost savings. Under the outlined scenario, the council’s Standards Review and Accreditation committees would be phased out later this year, with their work being returned to the council. Also, periodic re-accreditation of the nation’s law schools, including site visits to those schools, would occur every 10 years rather than seven years. Depending on whether the changes affect bylaws or standards, the change would have to be approved by either the ABA Board of Governors or the House of Delegates.

    • Heard several reports from affiliate groups, or other stakeholders in the legal education arena. Representatives from the Law School Admissions Council reported “positive trends” in law school applications of up more than 10 percent from a year ago at this point in the admissions cycle. Also, officials with the American Association of Law Schools reported that findings from their broad study, “Before the JD,” could be ready this summer. The survey, done in collaboration with the Gallup organization, involved 25,000 college undergraduates and 2,500 first-year law students. The study seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the factors contributing to the intention/decision to pursue a J.D. degree.

     

    The council’s open session agenda, including reports and memorandums, can be found here. The council is an independent arm of the ABA and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accreditor of law schools,

    Is legal education in or nearing a crisis? Panelists say it depends

    February 4, 2018 1:04 PM by glynnj

    Since the Great Recession of a few years ago, legal education has come under intense scrutiny, with declining student enrollment, rising student debt, a decreasing market for new law jobs and more schools coming under scrutiny for falling short of American Bar Association accreditation standards.

    Panelists at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver discuss the cost, affordability and access in legal education


    Does a crisis exist? A panel of research scholars and legal education leaders tackled that question Saturday, Feb. 3 at the ABA Midyear Meeting at session titled, “The Perennial (and Stubborn) Challenge of Cost, Affordability and Access in Legal Education: Has it Finally Hit the Fan?”

    Barry Currier, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education, doesn’t think so. Offering a personal view, he said legal education blogs and other pundits have it wrong. “Never has legal education been as strong as it is,” said Currier, the top staff member for the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, designated by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accreditor of law schools.

    The panel provided a mix of historical perspective of the growth of law schools since World War II and an exchange of provocative ideas, such as a two-year law school program with clinical externships. They agreed the goal is to craft a legal education program to better meet the demands of the profession as well as the needs of a nation, such as more access to justice.

    The program, one of several sponsored by the American Bar Foundation, ran an unusual 2 hours and 45 minutes in order to take a deep dive into the issues and challenges facing legal education today.

    Stephen Daniels, ABF senior research professor who has extensively studied these issues, tried to answer the question posed by the title in these words: “The basic problem is schools need students and they need money to operate. … It might be hitting the fan but hopefully not yet.”

    Daniels drew an historical outline of how the “business model” of legal education emerged since World War II and said his research showed that the roller-coaster” of law school enrollment directly stemmed from the availability of student loans. He noted that the environment is far from static and that law schools are trying a lot of different initiatives to deal with current challenges, but there is no single “magic” solution.

    Today, about 37,000 students are in their first year of approved ABA law schools, with about 110,000 students overall. This is down from about 44,000 1L students in 2010.

    The jump several years ago is a result, in part, of the availability of federal student loans for professional-level education. As Currier said, a school could charge $200,000 for tuition and estimate $50,000 in living expenses and the government would say, “Where do I send the check?”

    “We all are depending on student loan programs and those programs at this point are unregulated and uncapped” in terms of amounts of money, Currier observed, suggesting changes need to be made.

    There was also a consensus that the nation’s 200-plus accredited ABA law schools have also played to the ratings game, principally the law school rankings of U.S. News & World Report. “The increase in tuition costs is beyond belief,” said panelist Judith Wegner, a retired dean and law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law.” “I blame U.S. News.”

    Currier agreed, saying the magazine, which ranks law schools annually “has this stranglehold” on law schools and the ratings have an “outsized and perverse effect” that influences “what law schools do and how they behave.”

    Christopher J. Ryan, a doctoral fellow at the American Bar Foundation who has studied the economics of legal education, observed the “single greatest expenditure” at a law school is faculty and that cost savings could be realized by depending more on adjunct professors. The impact of discounting tuition to attract more students and student loans also plays a significant factor.

    Wegner made several suggestions that other panelists and those in attendance embraced in concept. She was one of five authors of a Carnegie Foundation report on educating lawyers in 2007, which suggested numerous changes to the legal education format. She observed that law schools do an excellent job to “advance critical thinking” but fall short on teaching the practice of law as well as conveying “professional identity.”

    Specifically, she suggests reforming the bar exam, perhaps adopting a “baby bar” to test critical-thinking skills after the first year like the testing done in medical education. This, she explained, would “tell students where they stand and tell law schools what to do about that.”

    Second, state licensing agencies should develop a system of legal professionals who are licensed to assist clients but not in all legal fields, similar to the status of a nurse practitioner, she said. This would give students with a “real thirst for justice” to practice in the legal field without accumulating major debt and allow others who want to specialize in the law to do so. The state of Washington now has a program and several other jurisdictions are exploring this approach.

    Rachel Van Cleave, former dean and professor of law at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, moderated the program.

    Midyear 2018: American Bar Foundation panel tackles ‘perfect storm’ of legal education challenges

    January 31, 2018 1:51 PM by glynnj

    Rising tuition rates and a less-than-robust job market for new lawyers puts law schools in a real bind when it comes to attracting students. As the economic recovery continues in the wake of the Great Recession of 2009, law schools face a perfect storm of sharply declining enrollments and revenues – declines not seen since the onset of World War II – as students face higher tuition and substantial debt in the face of dreary job prospects. It is an internet-age storm powered by a level of intensity and breadth unlike anything the legal profession has faced in the past.

    A panel of experts will explore this set of challenges and discuss potential solutions in a program at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, “The Perennial (and Stubborn) Challenge of Cost, Affordability and Access in Legal Education: Has it Finally Hit the Fan?" The panel discussion – to be held at 2-4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Vancouver Convention Center, West Level 2, Room 217 – includes a wide range of stakeholders with varied backgrounds:

    • Moderator Rachel Van Cleave, former dean and professor of law at Golden Gate University School of Law

    • Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education, American Bar Association

    • Stephen Daniels, senior research professor, American Bar Foundation

    • Christopher J. Ryan, doctoral fellow, American Bar Foundation

    • Judith Welch Wegner, Burton Craig Professor of Law Emerita and dean emerita, University of North Carolina School of Law

    Van Cleave says each panelist brings a different perspective to the discussion, which requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. “Law schools aren’t standing still,” she says. “There are many creative ideas being explored that panelists will discuss.” She served as dean of Golden Gate University School of Law from 2012-17, right about the time that many of these intertwined issues came to a head.  As a former dean and current law professor, she has a unique perspective.

    “It has been difficult terrain to navigate,” Van Cleave says, listing changes in curriculum, bar passage, creating a sustainable financial model and setting tuition as major challenges. She adds that an important role for deans has been to build – or rebuild – relationships to ensure collaboration.  She has observed law schools becoming much more student-centered and willing to provide individualized support, such as coaching and mentoring in and outside of the classroom.  As dean, she met individually with each first-year student, a tradition her successor has continued, she says.

    Panelist and ABF researcher Stephen Daniels will lead off the discussion by providing data and historical context on the financing of legal education and the role of the federal government, as well as employment trends and law school curriculum. He also will discuss how access to legal services has been impacted and how many innovators are reshaping how legal services are delivered.

    “First, we need to outline the problem and try to understand why we had the sharp decline in law school enrollment in 2010,” Daniels says. “Part of problem is that law schools haven’t seen this steep of a decline since World War II. Sharp declines mean sharp reductions in operating budgets.”

    Some factors are beyond the control of law schools, such as the state of the legal job market, he says. “We don’t know how bad, comparatively speaking, it may get. Hopefully people will come away with a better appreciation for the challenges facing law schools.”

    Daniels served as a consultant and reporter on the ABA Presidential Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education (chaired by former ABA president Dennis Archer), and the task force report was approved by the House of Delegates at the ABA Annual Meeting in 2015. Since then, he has continued his research and has since obtained a grant from AccessLex Institute to fund the effort.

    Following Daniels, Ryan will discuss the 21st-century status of legal education and the student perspective, focusing on the shift in how students make decisions about attending law school, as well as how law schools are approaching declining applications and enrollments. Currier is expected to provide the perspective of the ABA Council on Legal Education and how it examines outcomes, as well as updates on LSAT takers and the status of loan forgiveness. He will also speak about the strength of legal education programs and how law schools have changed in the last decade. Wegner will provide the big picture of possible solutions, including non-JD masters programs, JD-preferred employment, academic support, bar exam preparation and reform of the exam.

    The panel is co-sponsored by the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Education, ABA Law Student Division, ABA Section of Science & Technology Law, ABA Young Lawyers Division and the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

    ABA website updates data on law school admissions, tuition and other matters

    December 15, 2017 10:27 AM by glynnj

    CHICAGO, Dec. 15, 2017 — Information about admissions and other matters reported by American Bar Association-approved law schools to the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and required to be made public under Standard 509 of the Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools is now publicly available.

    The material is collected by the section, which requires law schools each year to disclose data and information covering matters of interest to potential law students and others with an interest in legal education, including admissions and enrollments, tuition and living costs, financial aid, curricular information, faculty demographics, employment outcomes, bar passage and other areas. The data can be easily searched and sorted, allowing for school-by-school comparisons and analysis and should be useful to prospective law students, pre-law advisors, media outlets and others who study and write about legal education.

    The spreadsheets, explanatory information and the ABA’s database of Standard 509 reports are available at www.abarequireddisclosures.org. Some of this information has been collected and summarized in the News and Announcement listings on the section's website and in its Legal Education Statistics section. The section’s 509 available reports go back only to 2011 although other historical statistics are available through the statistics link. There are several changes to the reports this year, and those changes are summarized here.

    Employment outcomes and, for the first time this year, bar passage outcomes, are reported in separate questionnaires. The section expects bar passage data to be available in March 2018. Employment outcomes, reporting employment for the class of 2017 as of 10 months following graduation, should be available in April.

    The Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and its Accreditation Committee are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accrediting agency for programs leading to the J.D. The section’s 14,000 members strive to improve legal education and lawyer licensing by fostering cooperation among legal educators, practitioners and judges through workshops, conferences and publications. The section also studies and makes recommendations for the improvement of the bar admission process, and the section and its governing council operate for accreditation purposes as independent arms of the ABA.

    Go to www.abalegalfactcheck.com for the ABA’s new feature that cites case and statutory law and other legal precedents to distinguish legal fact from fiction.

    With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement on line. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews

    ABA law school accrediting arm proposes major change in standard for admissions tests

    November 6, 2017 12:07 PM by John Glynn

    The American Bar Association’s accreditor of law schools is proposing to eliminate the requirement that ABA-approved law schools secure scores for a “valid and reliable” test for incoming classes as long as other measures indicate the school has “sound admission policies and practices.”

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