ABA SRC Meeting in Chicago…..news from the front

This morning,  the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Standards Review Committee held an open forum at Hotel 71 in Chicago and received much feedback on the current draft proposals arising from the Comprehensive Review of Accreditation Standards.  Committee members heard from a diverse group of speakers.  Representatives from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA), the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT),  Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD),  the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) ,  and the Best Practices Blog, as well as the Dean of Golden Gate University School of Law and several current or retired professors all of whom spoke against the proposed removal of tenure and 405 status. They also emphasized the likelihood that American legal education would be harmed by such a ‘”drastic change.”  Commentators noted that the initial Outcomes measures proposals had been much watered down because of the reaction of  many in the legal community. Similarly, the Committee was asked to consider the outpouring of negative reaction to their proposed removal of tenure and security under 405.  Commentators noted that the attack on tenure removed a fundamental cultural principle of American legal education, the importance of security to those who speak truth to power and, moreover, that those most at risk under these proposals were the very teachers in legal education who are most expert in integrating knowledge, skills and values (i.e., clinical and lawyering faculty) as demanded by the new outcomes standards.   Some of these commentators along with those from the California State Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar and the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline also focused  the Committee’s attention to the disparate impact of many of the standards as to race , gender and other diversity factors and proposed further consideration of provisions such as those on Admissions,  Bar Examination pass rates, and faculty security and status.   One theme which weaved throughout the morning was the theme of “unintended consequences” which arise when the separate proposals are considered as a whole or in an interlocking manner. 

As your editor, I asked the Committee (in my very short 5 minutes of time) to use as a touchstone the question whether or not law school graduates will be more or less likely, under the draft revisions,   to meet a client and then receive appropriate feedback on that interaction during law school.  I posited that the combination of  removal of tenure and 405 (c) combined with the current conflation of simulations, field placements and in-house clinics and the lack of definition for the phrase  “Substantial Opportunities” for clinical courses makes it less likely that these draft proposals will be consistent with the spirit and heart of Carnegie and Best Practices. 

After the open forum, the SRC moved to its “Action Items.”  First, it voted on current proposals on Chapter 2 Organization and Administration of a law school and Chapter 7 on facilities with modest modifications.   The Committee then moved to discuss Chapter 3 Learning Outcomes. After revising the proposal to require  at least two ( 2)  credit hours minimum  regarding a professional responsibility course [Standard 303 (a) (1)]  and three (3) credits for a rigorous, course that integrates doctrine, theory, skills and ethics and engages students in performance of professional skills [Standard 303 (a) (3)], the Committee “voted up” the student learning outcomes portions of Chapter 3.  It appeared to this observer that the Committee did not think this would add any burdens to law schools most of which already provide a plethora of simulated skills courses.  Unfortunately, the committee did not take up the issue of the conflation of simulation, in-house and field placement courses under proposed Standard 303(a) (3) or the fact that 3 credits may not be appropriate for a well-supervised clinical course with a rigorous, integrated class component.  Nor did the committee better define and explain what is meant by 303 (b)’s mandate to law schools to provide “substantial opportunities” for live-client clinics or other real-life experiences.  

The committee then went on to discuss one last  “action item” – the law library. The Committee engaged in discourse about the  issue of core collection and reliable access regarding law libraries. 

The agenda for the rest of the day included discussion of Standard 106 (separate campuses) and Standard 107 (variances) and the course of study under current standards 304-306.

Tomorrow, the SRC begins discussion of the proposed revisions to Chapter 509 (Consumer Information) led by  Loyola Dean David Yellen,  and Attracting and Matriculating Students (also Chapter 5) assigned to Erica Moeser, President and CEO of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.  Following this comes discussion of the controversial changes proposed to Faculty Terms and Conditions of employment, led by Standards Review Committee Chair and Dean of Santa Clara University of Law Donald Polden, and the standards regarding Faculty Competence and Responsibilities,  assigned to Professor Lucy S. McGough of Louisiania State University Paul M. Herbert Law School.  The day wraps up with discussion led by  Professor Catherine Carpenter of Southwestern Law School of the standards relating to Bar Passage.       

 More to come…..

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