Clearer Goals For Legal Education: Coming Soon to A School Near You

The theme of the regional conference at Albany Law School last week was “Developing and Defining Measurable Goals for Teaching Law Students.”

On the Tuesday night before the conference, I received a copy of  proposed changes to ABA Accreditation Standards 301-305.  I will tell you a little about the new proposals, but you should read the entire document with some care.  If the proposal is adopted in anything resembling its current form, it will change legal education.  You can access the document on the website of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at www.abanet.org/legaled/committees/comstandards.html.  Look in the section on “drafts for consideration at Standards Review Committee meetings.”  The document you are looking for is the “Learning Outcomes” draft that the committee will discuss in New Orleans on January 8-9, 2010 during the AALS meeting.

Here are two excerpts to get your attention: 

1.  “Standard 302, Learning Outcomes.  (a) A law school shall identify, define, and disseminate the learning outcomes it seeks for its graduating students and for its program of legal education to enable its students to participate effectively, responsibly and ethically in the legal profession.”

2.  “S302(b)(2) … The learning outcomes shall include . . . (2) proficiency as an entry level practitioner in:  (i) legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem solving, written and legal communication in a legal context;  (ii)  the ability to recognize and resolve ethical and other professional delimmas;” . . . . and more; . . . “(4) any other outcomes the school identifies as necessary or important to meet the needs of its students and to accomplish th school’s mission and goals.”

And don’t miss Standard 304, Assessment of Learning Outcomes and Institutional Effectiveness.

These proposals are not finalized, of course, but the ABA is quite serious about converting the accreditation Standards to an outcomes-focused approach rather than its current inputs-focused approach.  I support this new direction, even though I think the current proposal needs some work.

After you take a look at the proposal, share your reactions on this blog site. 

Enjoy, Roy

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