Law Schools

ABA Legal Ed Section's Council Advances Law School Accreditation Standards

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The governing council of the ABA’s law school accrediting arm has given preliminary approval to a package of proposed changes in law school accrediting standards covering facilities, equipment, technology, libraries and information resources.

The proposed changes, unanimously approved with only minor changes Friday by the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, will now be posted for notice and comment, according to Barry Currier, the ABA’s interim consultant on legal education.

The section’s Standards Review Committee, which proposed the changes, has asked the council to postpone final approval of its suggested changes until it has a chance to review all of the committee’s recommended revisions of the standards, which it hopes to finish by the end of 2013.

The proposed changes that received the council’s preliminary approval Friday are contained in two chapters of the standards. The first, chapter six (PDF), deals with law libraries and information resources. The second, chapter seven (PDF), addresses law school facilities, equipment and technology.

In making its recommended changes to chapter six, the committee said it had focused on three primary goals: to more concretely link library performance to the mission of the law school; to require measurements that are more outcome-related and focus on quality rather than quantity; and to alter the standards to reflect the ways that legal information can be accessed or acquired in the 21st century.

Under its proposed changes, the current opaque requirement that a law library be “an active and responsive force” in the life of a law school would be replaced by a more specific requirement that the library provide support adequate to enable the law school to carry out its program of legal education. Libraries also would be required to engage in planning and assessment.

Chapter seven, which now covers physical facilities, would be expanded to include equipment, technology and technology support. Law schools also would be required to have facilities, equipment, technology and technology support that “enable it to operate in compliance with the standards and carry out its program of legal education.”

At its meeting Friday in Denver, the council also approved a draft proposal for the development of a protocol for auditing law school graduate employment data, using some of the $250,000 monetary sanction it levied on the University of Illinois College of Law last June for intentionally misreporting admissions data.

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