ABA Continues To Contemplate Legal Ed. Reform

The Law Librarian Blog brought a recent National Law Journal article to my attention that summarizes the changes in accreditation rules supported by the ABA's Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. Chairman Kent Syverud described the changes in accreditation rules as the most "momentous" reforms the section has pursued in recent history. Some of those changes would eliminate rules deemed too onerous, while others are intended to encourage schools to innovate.

"The most controversial change is the elimination of the tenure requirement for doctrinal faculty.  There are others.  The Council voted to eliminate the 30 to 1 student faculty ratio.  Students can earn up to 15 credit hours via distance learning.  The previous cap was 12.  Full-time J.D. Students will be able to work more than 20 a week, eliminating the rule setting that limit."

As noted, these changes are a step in the right direction to greater autonomy for law schools. "Greater flexibility means schools can experiment more in how they organize and charge for their programs."

I am on the fence about tenure because there are faculty who express unpopular ideas but still add to legal scholarship through their views. Without tenure, there is not the same safeguard and academic freedom to do so. I also am not necessarily a huge fan of the elimination of the 30 to 1 student faculty ratio? Does this mean that law schools would only need four professors to teach the curriculum? With huge classes? Yikes.

I anticipated the move toward more distance learning credits, and thank goodness they are finally discussing the elimination of working no more than 20 hours per week. I worked 40+ hours per week to cover my living expenses because I hated the thought of taking out loans for rent and food. I think that most law students could still successfully fulfill their legal education requirements even while working. I wonder if more schools will open part-time or weekend sections to attract the more nontraditional working student? 

All in all, it's really great to see the ABA taking steps and discussing reform. 


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