Council Actions on the Comprehensive Review of the Standards

Volume 45 Number 3


Chief Judge
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
Chair, ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar


    The Section’s Council is nearing completion of a comprehensive review of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools commenced in 2008 and led by the Standards Review Committee. During the review process, the Committee sent recommendations to the Council, which then circulated the recommendations for notice and comment from interested constituencies, including legal educators, lawyers, judges, bar admission authorities, and university presidents.

    At its meeting in San Diego on March 14-15, 2014, the Council approved the vast majority of the recommendations that had been circulated for notice and comment. Importantly, the proposed changes to the Standards are designed to incorporate student learning outcomes into the Standards.

    The issue discussed by the Council that generated the most public comment was the effort to allow law schools the possibility of providing for academic freedom and security of position without requiring tenure, with tenure only serving as a safe harbor.  A majority of the Council expressed dissatisfaction with current Standard 405. However, neither of the alternative proposals that the Council had circulated for notice and comment were acceptable to a majority of the Council. Therefore, current Standard 405 remains in place.

    The Council had circulated for notice and comment alternative proposals for a requirement of experiential instruction. One alternative proposed a requirement of one or more courses totaling at least six credit hours; the other required at least 15 credit hours. The Council determined that six credit hours was the appropriate requirement at this time. The Council also added language to an interpretation encouraging law schools to promote opportunities for law students to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono service during law school.

    The Council approved several additional matters for notice and comment: a new Interpretation 503-3 that provides a “safe harbor” for admitting certain students without an LSAT score; and the deletion of a current prohibition on students  (in Interpretation 305-3) from receiving academic credit for paid internships. The Council also decided to send out for comment for a second time proposed Standard 505, which limits the total number of transfer credits that a transferring student can receive toward the J.D. degree from foreign law schools and L.L.M. programs to a third of the total credits needed for graduation. Under the current rule, a transfer student could transfer up to a third of the credits needed for graduation from a foreign law program and an additional third of the credits needed  from an L.L.M. program.

    The matters sent out for comment will be finalized by the Council at its June meeting in Cleveland.  The complete set of revisions is expected to be reviewed by the ABA House of Delegates in Boston at its August 2014 meeting, in accordance with House Rule 45.9.

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