The ABA Council of the Section on Legal Education met in San Diego on March 14th and 15th and voted on the final recommendations of the Standards Review Committee’s (SRC’s) comprehensive review of the standards begun in 2008. ( See earlier discussions here and here and here). I report on some but not all of this past weekend’s work.
On the controversial SRC recommendations on faculty tenure, security of position and academic freedom, the Council voted down both alternatives to the current standards, thus retaining the current system of tenure and security of position pursuant to ABA Standard 405. This is a victory for those who support tenure and security of position as the key to ensuring academic freedom, as I do. Council members acknowledged that the current standards are imperfect. For example, current standards unfairly institutionalize hierarchies within faculty that are inconsistent with innovation and preparing students for the profession, particularly with respect to our Legal Writing and Lawyering colleagues. This and other issues will be left for the next comprehensive review.
On the competing proposals to require experiential learning for all students, the Council voted to require six credits, rejecting an alternative proposal for 15 credits. This is a very small step in the right direction but at least it is a step. The approved ABA standard approved by the Council reads as follows:
“one or more experiential course(s) totaling at least six credit hours. An experiential course must be a simulation course, a law clinic, or a field placement. To satisfy this requirement, a course must be primarily experiential in nature and must:
(i) integrate doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics, and engage students in
performance of one or more of the professional skills identified in Standard
(ii) develop the concepts underlying the professional skills being taught;
(iii) provide multiple opportunities for performance; and
(iv) provide opportunities for self-evaluation.”
As to proposals concerning student pro bono hours, the Council adopted 50 hours as an “aspirational” goal, thus rejecting an hourly requirement such as that imposed by the New York Court of Appeals for admission to the bar in New York. With respect to inclusion of LGBT law students and law students with disabilities, the Council rejected proposals for affirmative inclusion, relying on general non-discrimination language.
Finally, the Council voted to send out for Notice and Comment a proposal to permit students to receive academic credit for paid externships. The Council is expected to vote on this proposal at its June meeting. As I discussed in an earlier post, this proposed change is fraught with difficulties and real risks. Those interested in this issue should think about information that needs to be conveyed to the Council and watch the ABA website for posting of the time frame for Notice and Comment. I will be following closely and will announce what I learn on this blog. The ABA House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on the proposed revised standards at their August meeting.
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