Annual Meeting

Legal Ed council tackles faculty tenure and distance learning as part of accreditation review

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The governing council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has tentatively approved three more chapters of proposed amendments to the law-school accreditation standards.

The council, which met Friday during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, voted to post the proposed changes to chapters 1, 3, and 4 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools for notice and comment.

Chapter 1 deals with general purposes and practices. Chapter 3 covers the program of legal education. Chapter 4 has to do with the faculty.

The most significant of the proposed changes would involve job protections for full-time faculty members. The council, following a lengthy debate, voted to send out two alternatives to the current standard, which is widely understood to require tenure or a comparable form of security of position for all full-time faculty members, except for clinical professors and legal writing instructors.

The first alternative, favored by a narrow plurality of council members, would require law schools to provide some form of security of position (short of tenure) to all full-time faculty members, including clinical professors and legal writing instructors. The other, which was a close second, would not require any form of security of position for anybody, but would require law schools to have policies and procedures in place to attract and retain a competent full-time faculty and to protect academic freedom.

Following the notice and comment period, the council plans to choose one of the two alternatives–or a variation–for final approval. It has also agreed to postpone final approval of any changes in the standards until the standards review committee completes its proposed overhaul of the standards.

Other tentative changes approved by the council Friday would increase the experiential learning requirement in the standards from one credit hour to six credit hours; increase the amount of credits law students may receive from distance learning courses from 12 to 15; and eliminate the current requirement that the student/faculty ratio be considered in determining whether a school is in compliance with the standards.

The council also narrowly voted Friday to approve a proposal from its data policy and collection committee to push back by a month–from Feb. 15 to March 15–the date on which law schools measure graduate employment outcomes and to move the deadline for reporting employment outcome data from March 15 to April 7.

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