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Board approves commission on legal education's future

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The ABA Board of Governors has approved a proposal submitted by President-elect Hilarie Bass to create a Commission on the Future of Legal Education.

Bass is aiming to restructure the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar with a new, “forward-thinking” entity handling all nonaccreditation-related activities.

“The creation of the commission is an important step forward in recognizing the ABA’s critical role in speaking out on behalf of the legal profession in connection with the future of legal education,” Bass said in a statement. The Board of Governors approved the commission on Feb. 3.

The proposal calls for a 10-person commission, the members of which will be appointed by the president and serve staggered three-year terms. The commission will become operational in August 2017. Details of how the commission will work were to be determined during the section’s council meeting in March.

In the earlier proposal, Bass envisions that the Commission on the Future of Legal Education would take over conferences, programs, publications and nonaccreditation-focused legal education section committees.

Besides accreditation work, the section would keep deans workshops and assistant deans workshops, which tend to deal with accreditation issues. If approved, nonaccreditation activity funds would shift to the commission in September. Commission members would be appointed.

Gregory G. Murphy, chair of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, sent a letter to the Board of Governors on Jan. 30 that expressed various concerns and asked that Bass’ proposal be given “thoughtful consideration” (PDF). His concerns included existing relationships the section has with other legal education groups and how section dues would be split.

Also, Murphy asked that the U.S. Department of Education be notified of the proposal before it is finalized and be asked for an assessment of how it might change the ABA’s recognition as the national accrediting agency for law schools.

The Deans Steering Committee of the Association of American Law Schools had asked the Board of Governors to table discussion of the proposal so members can be more involved.

“We learned of these proposals only yesterday, and we have serious concerns about them,” Daniel B. Rodriguez, chair of the steering committee, wrote in a Feb. 1 letter (PDF).

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