Legal Education

Should the ABA Accredit Foreign Law Schools?

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As law practice becomes more globalized, it may well make sense for the American Bar Association to accredit foreign law schools, just as it already does with schools in the United States, a special American Bar Association committee has suggested.

“Such an expansion would provide additional guidance for state supreme courts when lawyers trained outside the United States seek to be allowed to sit for a U.S. bar examination,” the committee said, according to the Special Committee on Foreign Law Schools Seeking Approval under ABA Standards’ report (PDF). “Since that is a key function of the accreditation process generally, the expansion would be consistent with the historic role of the section in aiding state supreme courts in the bar admissions area.”

The special committee was appointed in June by the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The council is scheduled to consider the recommendations of the in December, the National Law Journal reports.

The council is seeking comment from others about the possibility of having the ABA accredit foreign law schools. Those who wish to make comments should e-mail them to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) under the heading of “Foreign Law Schools.” Comments should be made by Oct. 15.

For those who believe that American law schools represent the “gold standard” for legal education, expanding ABA accreditation overseas would also potentially improve the training of attorneys worldwide and thus benefit the international legal community, the report notes. However, a possible downside is that expanding ABA accreditation abroad might make it easier for more foreign lawyers to work in the U.S., while offering no corresponding benefit to American lawyers who wish to work in other countries.

Among the committee members are professor Mary Kay Kane of the University of California Hastings College of the Law; Senior Justice Elizabeth Lacy of the Virginia Supreme Court; Dean Dennis Lynch of University of Miami School of Law; Chief Justice Randall Shepard of the Indiana Supreme Court; and partner David Tang of K&L Gates.

An earlier 2009 Report of the Special Committee on International Issues (PDF) details related matters and concerns.

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