ABA House of Delegates turning its attention to law schools

January 25, 2017

The American Bar Association is poised to dial up the pressure on law schools by linking bar exam passage rates to accreditation.

In February, the ABA House of Delegates will consider a proposal requiring any ABA-approved law school to have 75 percent of its graduates who take the bar exam pass the test within two years of earning their J.D. degrees. The House session is part of the ABA’s midyear meeting which begins Feb. 1 in Miami.  

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has offered Resolution 110B, saying the change in the standard is necessary to promote confidence that  ABA-accredited law schools are adequately preparing students for the legal profession.

In its report to the House of Delegates, the council said it was concerned that even with the proposed revision, a law school would still be in compliance if a full quarter of its graduates failed the bar. The council described such a situation as “a result that is all the more problematic considering the high cost of legal education and the challenging job market that law graduates currently face.”

Individuals and organizations who have spoken out against the resolution cited concerns about how the new standard would affect diversity and law school curricula. Indiana University Maurer School of Law Dean Austen Parrish has raised some potential red flags and speculated in a recent column in Indiana Lawyer that the ABA might be doing this as a roundabout way to trim the number of law schools. 

Also, the House of Delegates will consider Resolution 110A which encompasses several changes to the accreditation standards. In particular, the change to the admission standards would require law schools to admit only applicants who appear capable of completing the program and passing the bar exam. Schools that have 20 percent dropout rate would not be in compliance with the revised standard.

Details on these proposals and others scheduled for debate and a vote can be found here.


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