Legal Education

Proposal to eliminate ban on academic credit for paid externships moves forward


The governing council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has approved for notice and comment a proposed change in the law school accreditation standards that would eliminate the current ban on students receiving academic credit for paid externships.

The council, which met Friday in Atlanta, also approved for notice and comment a proposal that would forbid law schools from discriminating on the basis of gender identity, as well as several proposed changes in the wording of the diversity and inclusion requirements. One proposed change offers possible actions a school might take to reflect a commitment to an environment that is diverse and inclusive.

It also directed the section’s Standards Review Committee, which recommends changes in the standards, to consider whether any changes should be made in the current bar passage and Law School Admission Test requirements.

The ban on compensation for credit-bearing externships has been one of the most contentious issues to come before the council in recent years. The Law Student Division has lobbied hard to eliminate the provision, which it contends limits the amount of field placement opportunities available to students. But many clinicians oppose eliminating the ban, which they believe would undermine the academic purpose of the placements.

The latest proposed changes in the field placement standard include one that would define what a field placement course is and one that would require a written agreement spelling out the terms of the placement between the student, the faculty member overseeing the placement and the site supervisor. But they do not include any requirements or restrictions on field placements for which compensation is offered.

All of the proposed changes have been posted on the section’s website for notice and comment and may also be the subject of a public hearing on a date to be determined later. The council will decide whether to approve the changes at its next meeting in March in Phoenix.

Updated Dec. 16 to link to proposed changes on the section’s website.

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