Legal Education

ABA legal ed section contemplates rule change in light of novel coronavirus

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A proposal to change an ABA law school accreditation rule, which would allow for temporary relief in regional and national emergencies, is now being considered.

It will be discussed May 15, when the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar meets remotely. In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, some deans have concerns about whether potential distance learning classes in the fall will meet ABA accreditation standards.

A May 8 standards review subcommittee memo details the proposal, which suggests adding new language to Rule 2, authorizing the council to adopt emergency policies and procedures in response to “extraordinary circumstances” in which compliance with the standards “would create or constitute extreme hardship for multiple law schools.”

The proposed amendment would not apply to law schools individually. Also, if adopted, any emergency policies approved by the council would be for a limited time period related to the extraordinary circumstance in question.

“Put another way, the proposed emergency actions are not intended to displace the normal processes outlined in the standards where an individual law school seeks to respond to extraordinary events,” according to the memo.

If the council votes in favor of the proposal, it will go out for notice and comment with the goal of submitting the proposal to the ABA House of Delegates for its August 2020 meeting. Under ABA rules, the House of Delegates can send a proposed standard or rule 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.

Also on the agenda for the council’s May 15 meeting is a request by the Society of American Law Teachers to suspend Standard 316, which requires that at least 75% of a law school’s graduates pass a bar exam within two years.

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