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Council moves to expand flexibility for fall academic year

June 1, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending planning for the upcoming academic year, the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is moving to change its rules to give itself more flexibility to decide how the nation’s 200 ABA-approved law schools can offer classes this fall.

The ABA is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the sole national accreditor of approximately 200 law schools.

The ABA is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the sole national accreditor of approximately 200 law schools.

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Currently, council rules allow for up to one-third of a student’s credits to be taught online unless a variance is given. The proposal would permit the council, in response to the pandemic, to provide law schools more timely relief if necessary, including continued expansion of online classes. The proposal will be considered for approval by the ABA House of Delegates, which meets virtually Aug. 3 and 4.

“The proposed change is necessary because we are unsure of what the fall semester will bring with the COVID-19 pandemic, or what the (U.S.) Department of Education will permit accreditors to do to meet the continued emergency,” the council’s Standards Review Subcommittee said in its recommendation in May.

During the early spread of the coronavirus this year, the council provided law schools the ability to exceed the credit limits for distance learning if they continued to comply with other standards. Most ABA-approved law schools eventually moved their remaining coursework online.

The section’s council, which serves as an independent arm of the ABA, is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the sole national accreditor of approximately 200 law schools. 

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