University-wide Re-accreditation as a Catalyst for Best Practices

Law schools that are units within a larger university structure will be a part of the university-wide re-accreditation process. It is not unlike the ABA re-accreditation process. It involves a self-study, standards, a site visit and a report. The academic enterprise of a university is so complex that the process may involve multiple years to prepare and draft the self-study report. In an interesting synchronicity, a major criterion that the re-accreditation process focuses on is assessment. The idea is that the units should have some independent method for assessing the success of the education program. Of course, like all good bureaucracies, the university bureaucracy requested that each unit report on progress toward meeting this criterion as part of our re-accreditation process.

Because of the law school’s engagement with Carnegie and Best Practices, we were actually able to present a fairly sophisticated response to the request for evidence of meeting this criterion.

Since most law schools do not currently have an assessment plan, here is a suggestion for using the accreditation process as a catalyst to consider Best Practices for your law school.

Law School Assessment Plan

An Assessment Committee will be appointed; it will be involved in designing the assessment plan and will use the registrar’s office and other faculty members to design the plan. The faculty has spent the last year discussing two recent influential books on legal education, Educating Lawyers and  Best Practices for Legal Education.  Educating Lawyers suggests focusing legal education on three apprenticeships for the practice (knowledge, identity and skills) while Best Practices focuses on the specific cognitive and practice skills and professional and ethical values, and urges law schools and educators to develop coherent teaching objectives curricula focusing on those skills and values. The specific suggestions in Best Practices for small group learning, collaborative learning, skills training, values education, cultural competence, professionalism training, personal and professional balance and outcome-based assessment represent a potential for profound changes in the manner in which legal education is delivered in this country. Thus, this re-accreditation process gives the law school an opportunity to seriously evaluate its educational program.

 

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