Standards Review Committee Says “Our Work is Done” on Skills Requirement and Tenure and Security of Position: It’s in Council’s Hands Now

I am sitting in the lovely and warm Conrad Ballroom of the Conrad Hotel in windy, freezing Chicago. So far today, the Standards Review Committee (SRC) of the ABA Section on Legal Education has decided to leave some major issues in the hands of the Council on Legal Education. (As you know from my earlier post, the Council yesterday held the last of its public hearings on the proposed revisions posted for notice and comment.) The overall theme of today’s session appeared, at least to this observer, to be an urgency to finish the comprehensive view (which began in 2008) as soon as possible so that the Council can finish its work by June and the ABA House of Delegates can vote in August. Many times, it was noted that issues not currently resolved in this comprehensive review can be considered carefully by the committee going forward.

First, in previous meetings the SRC had voted to send up to the Council a proposed revision that require each student to take six credits of experiential courses. Last December, the Council decided to post for notice and comment an alternative proposal made by CLEA that would require 15 experience-based credits. Today, the Standards Review Committee decided not to further discuss the 15-credit proposal but to leave the choice to the Council without any revised recommendation from the SRC.

Similarly, with respect to security of position and tenure, the SRC decided that the very robust and interesting comments on the issue should be considered directly by the Council. SRC member and Southwestern Professor Catherine Carpenter in presenting a review of the recent comments noted the helpful law review article submitted on tenure and said that two interesting themes emerged from the recent comments: 1) whether academic freedom can truly be secured by any framework other than tenure; and 2) whether a time of financial exigency is the best time to change the rules of the game. The SRC and the Council members present agreed that the Council is in the best position to review the recent submissions and comments and take action.

With respect to Bar Passage revisions, the working committee reported that the continued resistance of some states to reporting individual pass results to law schools counseled against taking action at this time. In addition, they did not feel that they currently possessed all the data on state cut rates, pass rates and other “meta data” to create a properly informed recommendation. It was underscored that there are several important issues regarding bar passage that must be revised and/ or clarified before the standard should be amended. The committee will take up the matter again after the summer.

There were some changes made which I will report on later.

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