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Council sticks to positions on job data, bar pass standard

March 1, 2021

Despite separate requests from law school deans and professors, the governing body of the American Bar Association legal education arm has re-affirmed both the March 15 deadline for law schools to submit employment data for 2020 graduates and the revised bar passage standard that could impact the accreditation of a handful of law schools.

Jobs data for 197 ABA-approved law schools are typically made public in April to help pre-law students in making law school decisions.

Jobs data for 197 ABA-approved law schools are typically made public in April to help pre-law students in making law school decisions.

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In both instances, however, the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar indicated it would be flexible in handling concerns that result from the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors affecting recent law grads’ ability to get jobs or pass the bar.

At its virtual Feb. 19 public session, the Council, which is recognized as the national accreditor of law schools by the U.S. Department of Education, declined a request from law deans in New York, New Jersey and California to push the employment data reporting deadline from March to June. “We should not try to mask some of the problems caused by the pandemic,” said Bill Adams, managing director of ABA accreditation and legal education.

The jobs data for the 197 ABA-approved law schools are typically made public in April, in part to help pre-law students make their law school decisions. Adams said consistency of deadlines provides better consumer information, and schools can voluntarily update with additional data with appropriate disclaimers.

Last summer, a group of law professors asked for suspension of bar passage standards because of the impact of the pandemic. These standards require 75% of law grads who take the bar exam for each school to pass the test within two years for schools to avoid being found in noncompliance. Six of the 10 schools found out of compliance last spring have come back into compliance, Adams said.

In re-affirming the bar passage standard, the Council said it will consider “good cause exceptions” requested by individual schools. Also, the Council put out for comment a related change in its rules that would allow ABA-approved law schools an additional three years to come into compliance with any standard if the school shows “good cause” for its noncompliance. 

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