Legal Education

Citing a consumer need, ABA Legal Ed keeps March law school employment reporting deadline

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The council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will not be granting a request to push the employment data deadline from March to June.

Issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a Feb. 10 letter signed by law school deans in New York, New Jersey and California requesting the delay.

“We should not try to mask some of the problems caused by the pandemic,” Bill Adams, managing director of ABA accreditation and legal education, said at a Feb. 19 council meeting, which was held remotely. He added that some law school acceptance deadlines are between April and early summer, and moving the data deadline back to June would not help consumers. The data is usually made public in the spring.

When the employment data is released, it will include a statement explaining that the pandemic has affected both bar passage and employment numbers, Adams said. The deans had suggested using the current March 15 deadline as an interim “as of” reporting date in addition to a June 15 final reporting date. The council didn’t want to do that, Adams said, because that would mean imposing two deadlines and audits on law schools when the time could be better spent helping students.

If law schools want to voluntarily release additional employment information after the March deadline they can, but there will need to be disclosures, including a statement that the ABA did not audit the new data, he explained.

Adams also addressed reporting issues related to California. The state supreme court in January decided to retroactively admit people who in the past few years did not pass the bar but would have with the recently revised cut score. Admission for that group requires 300 hours of supervised practice, and Adams said the individuals could be counted as bar passers before they completed the condition.

In other business, the council on Friday approved suggested proposed revisions to standards regarding information law schools send the council and non-JD students enrolled in law school classes. The revisions to Standards 104 and 506, which can be viewed here, are scheduled to go to the ABA House of Delegates when it meets in August at the annual meeting. Under ABA rules, the HOD can send a potential revision back to the council twice for review with or without recommendations, but the council has the final decision on matters related to law school accreditation.

For the proposed revision to Standard 104, which addresses information law schools provide to the council, words were added to clarify that the institutions must complete and submit all questionnaires, self-studies and other information the council may require.

With regard to the proposed revision to Standard 506, which focuses on people who are not seeking law degrees attending law school classes, the suggested language removes wording that non-JDs can enroll in a limited number of classes, and is rewritten to read that they can enroll in “any J.D. course,” providing it doesn’t interfere with a school’s ability to carry out its legal education program.

As part of notice and comment on the proposed revisions, the deans of Fordham Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Columbia Law School and New York University School of Law sent a letter to council chair Scott Bales stating that LLM and other non-JD students add valuable perspectives and experience to classes. In response, Adams clarified that the council’s concern was that students who may not qualify for law school admission could create course coverage issues, not the number of classes open to non-JD students.

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