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ABA committee recommends keeping LSAT requirement

Posted Jan 22, 2013 2:32 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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An ABA committee has approved two more chapters of recommended changes in law school accreditation standards.

One of the two chapters covers admission policies and practices, and the other deals with organization and administration.

The most significant of the proposed changes would retain a pared-down version of the Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools' current requirement that all first-year applicants must take a valid and reliable admissions test.

The Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar’s Standards Review Committee, which is working on an overhaul of the standards, has gone back and forth several times on the merits of the so-called LSAT requirement (PDF).

But in the end, the committee, which met Friday and Saturday in St. Louis, voted overwhelmingly to recommend keeping the requirement in the version it will send to the section’s governing council, which must approve any changes in the standards.

By its vote, however, the committee also agreed to forward to the council an alternative version of the standard that would eliminate the LSAT requirement altogether.

All of the committee’s recommendations will now go before the section’s governing council for preliminary approval. The council meets March 15-16 in Tempe, Ariz.

But the committee will ask the council to postpone final approval of its suggested changes until it finishes its review of the standards, which it hopes to do by the end of the year.

With those two chapters behind it, the committee has now completed its proposed rewrite of four of the standards’ seven chapters. But it has made little headway to date in its efforts to draft a new standard governing job protections for law school faculty.

At its meeting in St. Louis, the committee discussed four possible alternatives to the current standard, which says that a law school should have an announced policy with respect to tenure for all full-time faculty but doesn't expressly require it. One alternative was a variation on the current standard, designed to clarify the language of the present version without making any substantive changes. Another would require law schools to provide all full-time faculty with tenure or presumptively renewable long-term contracts. A third alternative would eliminate the distinctions that are now permitted between so-called doctrinal faculty members and clinical professors and legal writing instructors by requiring that all full-time faculty members be extended the same form of job security. The fourth would eliminate any mention of tenure or job security from the standards.

At the end of that discussion, the subcommittee working on that standard agreed to come back with at least two alternative proposals for consideration at the committee's next meeting in April.

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